Learning About Starfish

Facts and Resources About Starfish

Learning About Starfish
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What Are Starfish?

To understand what starfish are, we have to first understand what they aren't. Scientists don't call these ocean-dwelling creatures starfish. They call them sea stars because they aren't fish at all.

Unlike fish, sea stars don't have gills, scales, or backbones. Whether you call them sea stars or starfish, they are interesting creatures to study.

They are an invertebrate marine life known as echinoderms.

One feature all echinoderms have in common is that their body parts are arranged symmetrically around a center point. For starfish, those body parts are their arms. 

Most of the 2,000 species of starfish have five arms, but some have up to 40! Each arm has suckers that help the starfish, who don't swim, move along and capture prey.

They also have an eye at the end of each arm that helps them locate food. Starfish eat things like clams, snails, and small fish. Their stomachs are located on the underside of their central body part. A starfish's stomach can come out of its body to envelop its prey!

Starfish can regrow an arm if they lose one. That's because their vital organs are located in their arms. In fact, as long as an arm has part of the starfish's central disc, it can regenerate an entire starfish.

These marine invertebrates don't have brains or blood! Instead of blood, they have a water vascular system.

Although they lack a true brain, they do have a complex system of nerves that are sensitive to light and temperature.

Starfish live only in saltwater habitats but are found in all Earth's oceans. They vary in sized based on the species but are usually between 4 and 11 inches in diameter and can weigh up to 11 pounds.

The lifespan of a starfish also varies by species, but many live up to 35 years. They can be found in a variety of colors such as brown, red, purple, yellow, or pink.

If you are fortunate enough to find a starfish in a tide pool or the ocean, you can safely pick it up. Just be very careful not to harm the starfish and make sure to return it to its home.

Learning About Starfish

To learn more about sea stars, try some of these excellent books:

Starfish by Edith Thacher Hurd is a 'Let's-Read-and-Find-Out About' story about these fascinating creatures. It's written to help children in preschool through second grade learn about starfish and how they live in the deep blue sea.

One Shining Starfish by Lori Flying Fish is a counting book for young children featuring starfish and other ocean-dwelling creatures. 

Star of the Sea: A Day in the Life of a Starfish by Janet Halfmann is a beautifully-illustrated book that weaves facts about starfish in a delightful tale that will captivate young readers.

Seashells, Crabs and Sea Stars: Take-Along Guide by Christiane Kump Tibbitts introduces readers to a variety of marine life, including starfish. The book includes tips for identifying several marine-dwelling creatures and features fun activities for kids to try.

Spiny Sea Star: A Tale of Seeing Stars by Suzanne Tate provides young children with facts about starfish in an easily-accessible manner. It includes delightful illustrations that will captivate its readers.

Sea Star Wishes: Poems from the Coast by Eric Ode is a collection of ocean-themed poems, including those about starfish. Memorize a starfish poem or two as you study sea stars.

Resources and Activities for Learning About Starfish

Spend some time researching and learning about starfish using your library, the Internet, or local resources. Try some of these ideas:

  • Learn more about how starfish see with the eyes at the end of each of their arms
  • Research starfish anatomy. Learn how they eat, breathe, and move
  • Visit an aquarium or a fish store to see live starfish up close
  • If you live near a beach, look for starfish in the tide pools
  • Make a diorama featuring starfish, their habitat and their prey
  • Create an ABC book about starfish
  • Do some research to find out what other creatures are in the starfish family, echinoderm
  • Learn about the dangers that starfish face such as predators and pollution

Starfish, or sea stars, are enchanting creatures who play an important role in their environment. Have fun learning more about them!