Scientists Discover Pasta-Starfish in the Atlantic Ocean

Published July 11th, 2019 - 09:00 GMT
Plinthaster dentatus (Twitter)
Plinthaster dentatus (Twitter)
Among their observations have been a number of previous unknown feedings habits of the pasta-like animals.

Marine scientists say they've made a number of new observations on a ravioli-resembling starfish by observing it in its natural habitat.

Scientists with the NOAA's Okeanos Explorer who are studying coral and other marine habitats in the Atlantic Ocean have recorded numerous pasta-shaped starfish called along their journey.

While the species, called Plinthaster dentatus and also commonly nicknamed the 'cookie' starfish for its bulbous shape, has been known since 1884, scientists say little is known about how the creature functions on a day-to-day basis.

This species stands out because the arms and disk are nearly confluent, thus presenting a more pentagonal shape relative to other sea stars,' reads a blog post from the NOAA on their discoveries. 

Among their observations have been a number of previous unknown feedings habits of the pasta-like animals.

In on particularly telling instance, scientists say they found a group of the starfish colliding with a sea urchin -- the urchin was found to be feeding on one of the sponges.

Scientists say the discovery raises a number of questions, including why the two animals were in the same place, and whether or not urchin regularly prey on sea stars. 

'Among the most important outcomes of these dives, aside from recognizing previously unknown species, are observations of known species in the process of performing their basic day-to-day biology, feeding, spawning, etc...' said the NOAA.

'This species’ biology has been largely unknown despite the fact that the species has been known since 1884!'

In other cases, researchers say they have even made first-of-their kind discoveries, like the Sthenaster emmae, which is another sea star only ever observed previously in dead samples.

'This species was hypothesized to be a coral predator when I described it, based on fragments found in its gut, but now we have solid evidence of this species feeding on a primnoid octocoral! This was the FIRST time it’s been seen alive!' wrote Chris Mah of the National Museum of Natural History in a blog post.

Yet another species of mysterious sea star has yet to be identified, though Mah says the animals is likely in the genus Hymenaster given it's translucent skin and unusual body structure.

The new discoveries come as a part of the NOAA's Windows of the Deep mission which is aimed at exploring ocean depths in waters just off the southeastern coast of the U.S. The mission will continue through July 12.

This article has been adapted from its original source.    

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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