Thursday, December 24, 2015

Happy Holidays! Protoreaster lincki! A festively colored tropical Indian Ocean starfish for your winter solstice!

Image taken by Jan Mees. From the World Registry of Marine Species
This week, a photoessay and odd little facts about this very strikingly colored/decorated oreasterid starfish, Protoreaster lincki!  You can check this past post on how to tell Protoreaster species from the similar Pentaceraster species..

This is a shallow-water tropical species known primarily from the western Indian Ocean, especially on the east African coast. The species descriptor "lincki" is named for the German naturalist Johann Heinrich Linck, the author of a noted monograph on sea stars, De stellis marinis liber singularis published in 1733. Johann Linck is also the namesake of the familiar starfish genus Linckia. Many years ago I wrote a little bit about where funky starfish names come from before, especially Nardoa and Luidia.
We really don't know much about the primary biology of this species. Its thought that they feed primarily on microalgal film so presumably they are dependent on the "goo" on sea grass, sea bottoms, etc.  

This species is fairly easy to recognize due to its striking red on white coloration, but also the very distinctive pattern of spines and etc... There is some variation however. Spines in some individuals are more conical versus others which are more blunt...
Image taken by Adrian Pingstone 2005 at Bristol Zoo Aquarium, Bristol, England via Wikipedia

red starfish
Close up of Starfish (Protoreaster linckii), Kenya.
red-knobbed starfish (Protoreaster linckii)
Red, yellow, and grey starfish
Zanzibar Starfish
The spines on this species and other oreasterid starfish likely serve against larger predators. Its unclear if they are effective against smaller specialized echinoderm predators such as these harlequin shrimp

Variation! The skeletal patterns on these sea stars are broadly consistent and distinctive for this species. But in the same way that people can have different hair and skin color, different facial features, etc. starfish show variation in spination, pattern and even color... 

Here are some examples. Its unclear if the differences are simply random or if they correspond to some kind of environmental factor such as food, etc.

Red-knobbed star

Tanzania, African coast.
Tanzania, African coast.
Red-knobbed Starfish
Tanzania, African coast
Tanzania March 2009 261
Zanzibar, African coast
Zanzibar 2005 192 (Large)
and the occasional 6 armed variant..
Red star on the beach

As with the Indo-Pacific species, P. nodosus, this species is fished for the tourist trade. Data about its reproductive abilities and "carrying capacity" for a fishery aren't well documented.
StarfishStarfish flashers

ART! For some odd reason, this species has also served as the inspiration for many distinct types of art. This postage stamp...for Mozambique in 1982 and the more recent rendition below it, including the pastel and of course TATTOOS! 
via the World Registry of Marine Species

Starfish by CreativeCurseKina on DeviantArt

starfish tattoo by SunofKyuss on DeviantArt

Happy Holidays from the Echinoblog!


Emily said...

These look like some kind of candy or fondant icing. Festive indeed!

Hữu Tú Trương said...

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