One of the most bizarre and captivating animals that can be found in virtually every region of the world’s oceans is the feather star. Hailing from the echinoderm phylum, these creatures share a distant relationship with starfish and sea urchins, but the similarities end rather abruptly there. Feather stars are classified as crinoids, taken from the Greek words for “lily” and “form.”
Crinoids begin their lives implanted in the sea bed or reef on stalks, but become free-swimming organisms as they mature, with the exception of deep sea crinoids, who benefit from remaining in a static location. The appendages of the crinoid are long and feathery, with tiny little tube feet covered in sticky mucus that not only facilitate locomotion, but feeding as well. Plankton adhere to the sticky feet, where they are then flicked down into a groove that directs it to the central mouth. In deep sea species, the arms will divide into more branches and extend much longer than a shallow water crinoid to compensate for the reduction in food. Although only several hundred species exist today, these graceful swimmers were once some of the most prominent organisms on the planet! Here is just a handful of the amazing varieties of feather stars in our oceans.
Top image via Chika