The recent riptides and swirling currents along our coast stirred up a bunch of debris from the shallow sea floor and tossed it up on the shore. While some visitors were disturbed by the mess, to me it was a beachcomber’s paradise.
The most exciting find of my day was this small brittle star. Does that central disc remind you of something? A sand dollar, perhaps? You’re on to something!
Brittle stars, sea stars, sea cucumbers, and sand dollars are all members of the same phylum, Echinoderm (Greek for spiny skin).
Like their multi-armed counterparts, brittle stars can also regrow their limbs. In fact, they earned the moniker brittle star because they shed their arms so easily (as a mechanism to avoid predation).
But brittle stars take regeneration to the next level with their ability to completely separate from their central disc and organs: a single arm can produce an entirely new brittle star. That’s so amazing that it is almost creepy.