Friday, May 9, 2008

I finally saw cushion stars!

I am a sea star fanatic and somehow for about one and a half years of intertidal trips, I have not get any chance to see cushion stars. Knowing that they are seen at Cyrene Reef and Semakau before, I put on the cushion-star search image whenever I go out to these two reefs.

Amazing today at Cyrene, not one but TWO cushion stars (about 18cm) were found. Their scientific name is Culcita novaeguineae.

Interestingly, both were not found by me. One was by Collin, the other I don't by who. But am very thankful to them for spotting the stars!

Why then do cushion star have such a weird shape with "no arms"? According to Dr Lane's "A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore", its size and shape may make it hard for fish predators to bite. Juveniles have a more pronounced star shape like this one found at Cyrene last month.

This is the juvenile cushion star with the more distinctive star shape, found last month also at Cyrene Reef.

There are reports according to Dr Lane that these stars can feed on coral like the crown of thorns sea star. His book also says "feeding individuals evert their stomach over a variety of sessile animal growth or even over organic-rich sediments".

Now time for "profile photos" for each model. This is the aboral surface of one of the two.

The underside reveals a nice red colour beneath the orange top surface.

Can you see the tube feets "spilling" out at the side?

This is the other cushion star!

This is the underside. If you look closely you can see tube feet coming out at the sides.

A close up of the tube feet of the cushion star.

A usual memorable photo with the stunning stars of Cyrene Reef!

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