Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Chocolate Chip Sea Star

Protoreaster nodosus
It's no wonder how the Chocolate Chip Sea Star got its name. These tropical echinoderms have creamy, brownish bodies topped with dark brown tubercles all over the top, making them resemble the popular cookie!

You can find Chocolate Chip Sea Stars in the shallow waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, hanging out in sandy beds and near coral reefs.

Sea Stars have no eyes, so they must find they prey using their sense of smell. Chocolate Chips aren't picky about what they eat, so their meals can range from live sea aponges, to coral, to the waste of other animals. When they find some food, they actually push their stomach outside of their mouth, engulf the meal, and then bring it back inside their body!

The species has the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually. Sexual reproduction is done externally-- the eggs and sperm are released into the water at the same time, where they mix and fertilize. The Sea Stars can also reproduce asexually, making exact copies of themselves through regeneration. If they lose an arm, they can grow it back. But that chunk of lost arm can also grow a whole new Sea Star! Baby Chocolate Chip Sea Stars go through five growth phases over 2 years, when they finally reach adult size and become sexually mature.

Chocolate Chip Sea Stars are sometimes kept in aquariums, due to their appearance and non-aggressive behavior. Keeping them with coral is probably a bad idea though, since they will eat it!

IUCN Status : Not Listed
Location : Pacific and Indian Oceans
Size : Length up to 16in (40cm)
Classification : Phylum : Echinodermata -- Class : Asteroidea -- Order : Valvatida
Family : Oreasteridae -- Genus : Protoreaster -- Species : P. nodosus

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