The island of Maui brings each visitor to paradise amazing and breathtaking views of blue waters, mountainous land and starry night skies under the palms. But the sky isn’t the only home to stunning stars on the island! The salt waters of Maui are filled with sea stars, a wonderful sight for snorkelers! OF the over 1,800 species of sea stars in the world, Hawaii is home to 20 shallow water species and 68 deep sea species. Though some refer to these colorful creatures as “star fish”, having no gills and no scales or fins means that sea stars are not fish at all! Be on the lookout in the waters for these super unique animals!
Close relatives to sea urchins and sea cucumbers, the sea star is built of a five part body with a central disk and radial symmetry. Size, shape and color of these critters varies by species, and sea stars can have up to 40 arms! With no brain, heart or blood, sea stars can not survive in fresh water and have a lifespan of up to 35 years. The upper side of the body is made up of hard plates of calcium carbonate, covered in tiny spines. The mouth is located on the underside of the body, and the body possesses two stomachs; cardiac and pyloric. The sea star can feel pain, and has the ability to survive outside of water for up to 28 hours. These scavengers have a diverse diet, feeding by everting the stomach over prey and digesting food either outside of the body, or simply swallowing it whole! Using filtered water to pump nutrients through the body as a replacement for many body parts and functions that the sea stars lack. These animals are predators of the waters, and can be cannibalistic in tendencies.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the sea star is the arms! These animals are echinoderms, meaning travel is done using the tube feet that covers the underside of each arm. Most of the body’s vital organs are located in the arms, and each arm has an eye at the very end, a red spot which senses light and dark to see. Each arm possesses up to 15,000 tube feet, allowing for sea stars to move much faster than expected! Each foot contains a flue like substance for attaching to and staying positioned on the environment. A solvent is then secreted when the animal is ready to move, which dissolves the glue like, sticky residue. With these strong, powerful arms, the largest sea star can be up to three feet in diameter!
Sea stars have the ability to detach an arm to help in escaping predators, but this can also be a method of reproduction! Because major organs are homed inside of the arms, after detaching a limb or splitting apart, a new animal can be formed! And after up to a year, the original animal is like new again! Though sea stars aren’t social animals, the species has been known to congregate for feeding and breeding, and have the ability to release chemical signals for communication. Reproduction occurs when eggs and sperm are simultaneously released into the water. Each breeding may result in anywhere from 2.5 million to 6.5 million eggs, which will hatch into larvae before finally settling to the bottom of the ocean.
Snorkeling is a key activity when visiting Maui, a real look at the world that lies under the surface! And of the animals sure to be sighted whilst swimming around is the sea star, a truly exquisite sight! For an even closer look at these interesting creatures, try a trip to the Maui Ocean Center! Go Rent A Car Maui has vans, trucks, suv’s and sedans to take the family to all the best snorkel spots on the island, or straight to the Maui Ocean Center for an even better look at the sea stars of Hawaii!