Starfish, as they are commonly known, are also known as sea stars and are a type of invertebrate that lives in the Whitsundays. There are 630 species of starfish and urchins on the reef, all of which play a vital role in its life cycle. Known mostly for their star-like shape, they do come in many shapes and sizes and play many different roles in the giant ecosystem of the Great Barrier Reef. There are many different types of sea stars found around the islands, coming in many colours and forms. They have the amazing ability to lose limbs and grown them back, so often times, they will be oblong or weirdly shaped as they are growing back their missing limb. Even if chipped in half, the two halves will from two separate starfish, growing back the missing half.
Another gorgeous family of starfish are the feather stars. These impressive creatures have colourful feather like legs they use to move and feed. When swimming, amazingly, they manage to move almost one leg at a time (they have dozens of legs!) for an unforgettable show. They do not look like your typical sea star, as they don’t lie flat on the seafloor, instead standing upright and resembling a marine plant.
The pacific blue sea star is often spotted in the Whitsundays and is easily identified by its shocking blue colour. They have the ‘classic’ sea star shape with 5 pointed arms in the shape of a star. They can grow up to 30cm in diameter and are mostly shades of blue, but have been known to be shades of pink on occasion.
This solitary species is the second largest seastar in the world and currently the more troublesome on the Great Barrier Reef. It is nocturnal and comes out in the darkness to feed on coral polyps, eating away at the corals and leaving them bare. These feeding habits make it a pest on the reefs and is a big part of the destruction of corals on the Great Barrier Reef. Their purpose is balance life on the reef, feeding on fast growing species in order to keep them under control, which can sometimes get out of control.
The crown-of-thorns gets its name because of the sharp spines that cover its surface, which resembles a bushel of thorns. They have few natural predators and are extremely venomous. If a human comes into contact with one they would notice a discolouring of the skin and if the spines happen to have broken off in the wound, may cause further infection.