The Starfish of the Bahamas
Millions of tourists flood the beaches of the Bahamas every year to enjoy the sun, sand, and water. More active visitors also take advantage of the water sports the island offers, including snorkeling. When snorkeling in the Bahamas there are thousands of different marine animals waiting to be spotted, including the ever popular and endlessly varied starfish.
Starfish have a central body surrounded by multiple limbs, creating the starlike shape which gave them their name. Many starfish have the ability to regenerate limbs when one or more is lost. Their skin is hard and is one of the characteristics that make them challenging for predators to eat. The central body of the starfish contains its mouth and stomach, though the digestive system can also spread into the arms in some species.
Starfish come in all sizes and colors, and even the number of arms they have can vary greatly. While five arms arms are most common, some starfish have four or five times that many. A small starfish may only be the size of a fingernail, while the larger ones are several feet across. Most of them are about the size of a hand, however, making them a colorful and exotic sight for any snorkeler.
Starfish Eating Habits
Different species of starfish have different eating habits. However, as previously mentioned, one thing that starfish all have in common is that their mouths and digestive systems are in the center of their body. Many species of starfish can actually start digesting food before they even eat it by having part of their stomach exit through their mouth and engulf prey. This is one way they manage to eat prey that is bigger than their mouth.
Starfish are not fast moving, making hunting difficult for them. A favorite meal for many starfish is shellfish, including oysters. They use their stomach to pry apart the shell just enough to allow entry and begin the digestive process immediately. Sea snails are another common meal, as well as sea worms. Some starfish are also filter feeders, which can also aid in keeping the waters near them clean.
There are different species of starfish found all over the world in all the oceans. Their only real limitation is that all of these species must live in saltwater, which keeps them away from freshwater lakes and rivers. Aside from that they are very flexible and can be found in waters warm and shallow or deep and cold, and everything in between. They are a varied and hardy species, which is just one of the things that make them so popular throughout the world.
Florida alone boasts many different types of starfish, including the mud brittle star and the common comet star, which usually has six arms instead of five and comes in multiple colors. The royal sea star is another especially attractive starfish that can be found on seabeds in Florida, and is generally purple and yellow.