The oceans of our planet are teeming with life, and filled with some of the most incredible creatures humanity has ever laid eyes on. Feather Stars or Crinoidea are an excellent example of some of the treasures found in the great oceans of our world.
Feather Stars Overview
Feather stars are a part of the crinoid family, meaning they are cousins to sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sea urchins. While feather stars are quite different from these other organisms, they share common features that bridge the species. As mentioned earlier, feather stars have the name Crinoidea because they are crinoids. These creatures are a part of the same phylum Echinodermata, so while there are clear differences between these organisms, they share the same general group of steadfast characteristics that have been seen for centuries within this phylum. There are about 600 different types of feather stars, all ranging in appearance and location within our oceans.
What do Feather Stars Look Like?
Feather Stars can be many different vibrant colors, sizes, and even have different amounts of "arms" or appendages attached to them. All crinoids have a mouth near the upper surface of their body, and many feathery feeding appendages attached that also help with mobility while swimming through shallow waters. Their arms are usually around five in number, but there are many feather stars that have even more arms than that. Some will even have five arms separated into numerous tendrils, making it very hard to tell how many appendages are on their body. They are an almost ethereal looking sight, one that is a once in a lifetime opportunity to get to see.
What do Feather Stars Eat?
Feather stars are creatures that have survived for as long as they have based on the fact that they do not have a picky diet. They drift around warm, shallow waters eating plankton and other microorganisms by absorbing them through the tendrils of their appendages. Their food source is readily available, and is always replenishing. However with issues such as global warming and other factors in this world's climate crisis, feather stars and many other organisms will find it harder to locate the resources they need. Unfortunately, due to this we may begin to see a decline in the numbers of yet another one of the beautiful species in our oceans.
Location of Feather Stars
Feather stars are often viewed as uncommon inhabitants of our oceans, specifically because their place of greatest abundance is in the Indian Ocean. Their existence has spread all the way to the coasts of Japan, however they can also be seen in other areas where shallow water and a rocky ocean is plentiful. Feather star juveniles(young feather stars) may perch on these rocks using a stalk, but as they grow older most will detach and begin swimming freely about the waters where it resides. The majority of feather stars will only come out at night, and will spend most of the daylight hours perched peacefully on rocks, taking in the nutrients needed to survive.
Natural Predators of Feather Stars:
These organisms are very unique because they do not have many natural predators. Other than a few types of fish and sea urchin who might attempt to make a quick meal of a feather star, the majority of ocean life will leaves these creatures alone. Due to their slightly intimidating nature on account of their size and long spindly arms, most potential predators steer clear of feather stars. Some feather stars can even produce toxins from their limbs, lessening the chance that a predator would eat them, let alone take a bite.
These unique creatures are not on the endangered species list, and while they are not in immediate danger of extinction, lets keep in mind that the choices we make on earth today effect the delicate balance of ecosystems around the world. An effort must be made so our beautiful creatures like the majestic Feather Star can be around for years to come.
NOAA Photo Library "A yellow and black feathered crinoid"
By Alexander Vasenin - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=24925765
"File:Barren Island feather star and branching coral.jpg"by Holobionics is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0