learn only 3 things about them ...
They are no longer common on all our shores.
Their method of mating is unique among sea stars
use water to pump up their bodies. Don't remove them from
water for too long.
its name, this elegant sea star is no longer common on all our shores.
In the North, Chek Jawa used to be the only place where it was seen
in large numbers. But following massive flooding in Johor in early
2007, there were mass deaths among these animals (more about the mass
deaths on the Chek Jawa project
blog). It is not no longer found on Changi or the East Coast.
But it remains the most commonly encountered sea star on Southern
shores. Generally in shallow sandy or silty areas near seagrasses.
Adults diameter with arms to about 12-15cm. Smaller juveniles are
rarely seen. Body somewhat rounded (not flat). Arms long and tapered
to a sharp tip, and edged with short flat, blunt spines. Most have
five arms, but those with three, four and six arms are sometimes also
seen.The underside is pale, with large tube feet tipped with suckers.
Colours and patterns on the upperside are highly variable in shades
of greyish blue, to brown and beige.
Sometimes confused with the Eight-armed
sand star (Luidia maculata). The Eight-armed sand star
has, well, eight arms and large tube feet with pointed tips. While
most Common sea stars have five arms (although some may have six),
and all have large tube feet with sucker-shaped tips.
What does it eat? According to
Schoppe, it feeds on detritus, decaying plants and tiny animals. To
eat, a common sea star sticks out its greenish 'stomach' through its
mouth on the underside. The 'stomach' spreads out to mop up any edible
titbits on the sand surface.
Uncommon mating ritual: Sea stars
of the genus Archaster have a unique mating behaviour. The
male, which is usually smaller, seeks out a female during the breeding
season. He then moves on top of her, his arms alternating with hers.
Their reproductive organs do not actually meet. Sperm is merely released
by the male when the female releases her eggs, for external fertilisation.
This behaviour is believed to increase the chances of external fertilisation.
So much so that the males do not need to be large and are thus usually
smaller than the females, a rare gender difference among echinoderms.
The only other sea star known to practice this kind of mating behaviour
is the closely related Archaster angulatus.
A tiny parastic snail (Parvioris fulvescens) is said to be
sometimes found on the underside of the common sea star.
Juveniles are found in prop roots of mangroves and gradually inhabits
sandy shores, seagrass areas and shoals as they age, where they are
burried slightly in the sand.
Is our sea star special? According
to the Singapore Red Data Book, the form found in Singapore is larger
than other examples elsewhere in the west Pacific and may be a distinct
variety of subspecies.
Status and threats: Although plentiful
in the past, common sea stars are now listed as 'Vulnerable' on the
Red List of threatened animals in Singapore due to habitat loss and
overcollection. Their mating behaviour suggests that a certain population
density is required for them to be able to reproduce successfully.
In the past in Singapore, the common sea star was often collected
as a teaching aid in zoology and biology. This practice can threaten
the population if it results in overcollection.
sometimes four or six arms
Jawa, Dec 03
greenish stomach sticks out through the mouth to 'mop up' edible
bits on the ground.
Chek Jawa, Feb 02
pair of sea stars are in 'mating' position.
Chek Jawa, Nov 04
can become flexible to turn
themselves over if accidentally flipped.
Chek Jawa, Mar 05
The white structure
is the madreporite.
Chek Jawa, Nov 06
Wiith seven arms.
Cryene Reef, Jul 10
With six arms.
Kusu Island, Feb 07
A mating mess?
Chek Jawa, Mar 05
Small male on
top of larger female.
Kusu Island, Sep 10
due to massive floods.
Chek Jawa, Jan 07
Tanah Merah, Oct 09
Snail on arm,
not often seen.
Pulau Hantu, Jul 08
sea-stars on Singapore shores
- J. Q. Run
et al. Mating
behaviour and reproductive cycle of Archaster typicus (Echinodermata:
Asteroidea). Marine Biology September 1988, Volume 99, Issue
2, pp 247-253.
- Arthur R.
Bos et al. Ontogenetic
habitat shift, population growth, and burrowing behavior of the
Indo-Pacific beach star, Archaster typicus (Echinodermata;
Asteroidea). Marine Biology March 2011, Volume 158, Issue
3, pp 639-648.
- Lane, David
J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A
Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore.
Singapore Science Centre. 187pp.
Neville. 2007. Sea
stars: Echinoderms of Asia/Indo-Pacific. Neville Colemanís
Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd, Australia.136pp.
- Chou, L.
M., 1998. A
Guide to the Coral Reef Life of Singapore. Singapore Science
Centre. 128 pages.
G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore
Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore.
Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
Sabine, 2000. Echinoderms
of the Philippines: A guide to common shallow water sea stars,
brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and feather stars.
Times Edition, Singapore. 144 pp.