The pictures aren't photoshopped. These are real sea animals called feather stars!
Aging gracefully, these are born with a stem that they shelter in adulthood. These amazing creatures can have as few as five arms and as many as 200 with each arm up to a foot long! A type of marine invertebrate with featherlike arms radiating from a central body, feather stars date back about 200 million years, says Tomasz K. Baumiller
, a professor of paleontology at the University of Michigan.
“Feather stars are thought of as living fossils,” he says. “They have a tremendous diversity that traces its roots deep down in the geological past.”
They are echinoderms like sea stars but are also a type of crinoid like water lilies.
They use their featherlike arms to catch food which make them filter feeders. That is, they just “chill” in the water, expose their arms, and let all the nutrients moved by the current come to them. Also, they can regrow those arms! They have the ability to shed an arm like lizards do with their tails- an anti-predator response. Some of them are even toxic, perhaps to prevent them from eaten. However, small animals like snails often live on them, inviting some fish to just scour through them to find a tasty meal.
Not all feather stars are swimmers though. Certain species only crawl along the bottom and while there are a few theories about the reason behind the swimming adaptation (i.e. to escape from predators or to more easily relocate), it isn’t truly certain yet. Regardless, watching them move through the water is captivating and mesmerizing enough.
“They are incredibly photogenic, and it’s not just because of how they are swimming, but because of their colors and size,” Baumiller says.
Feather stars have varieties of spectacular colors- from deep reds to vibrant oranges and electrifying yellows. So, next time you go to the ocean, search up and you may find the most intriguing creatures you’ll ever see. Like this one!