Thursday, December 29, 2011
Sea Star Washes Up After Storm
You never know what you might find walking along the beach after a storm. A walk on the ocean side of the Sandy Hook peninsula this morning revealed a Forbes Sea Star washed up at the high tide line.
I couldn't tell how long this little stout, five armed fellow had been dead, but I estimated it wasn't long. The sea star was still intact, so the gulls didn't get to it for a morning meal.
Most likely it was kicked ashore by really strong winds the other day. The high winds produced large ocean waves, some over 4 feet tall , which scoured the bottom of the ocean to pick up benthic creatures and deposit them on the beach. If sea stars set too close to the shore, they are vulnerable to a vigorous surf.
Sea stars are not fish as their nickname "starfish" implies. Marine scientists prefer to use the term “sea star” rather than “starfish” because this animal is an invertebrate not a fish. Sea Stars belong to a group of animals called echinoderms, which means "spiny skin." They are related to brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars.
While the Forbes Sea Star is probably the most common sea star along the coast of New York and New Jersey, it is still a prize to find one, beautiful to see, and sad when you find one lifeless.