Don’t touch starfish

In the Marine Park of Villasimius, as in many other seabeds in Sardinia, you will find many beautiful starfish. The red starfish belong to the family of echinoderms, they are widespread throughout the Mediterranean, between a few meters deep up to 200. They live on average between 70 and 80 years, but can also reach 100 years.

They eat worms, mollusks, small sea urchins and sponges, they are able to open a shell and stick the mouth inside and eat the mollusk inside. They have an extraordinary ability to regenerate in a few weeks an arm that is cut off.

When they reproduce, all the stars in the same area release eggs and sperm at the same time, often during a full moon night in mid-August. If you look closely at the stars just before this date you can see the eggs forming inside the small cavities of the star as in the photo below.

The stars cling to the rocks through peduncles equipped with suckers. In recent years there were hundreds of starfish in every rocky area of Villasimius. Lately they are shrinking in a worrying way (where before we saw 150, this year we hardly get to fifteen) and we often find dead starfish. This is sometimes due to the fact that some bathers take the stars to show them to the children and then throw them back on the shore thinking that they will swim on their own to return to the offshore where they were taken.

People should never take the stafishes out of the sea, the ideal would be not to touch them, this for various reasons:

– they are not able to survive if the water temperature is above 22 degrees, if you release them to the shore the water is too hot for them, they practically end up boiled.

– when you detach them from the rock you are breaking the pedicels with which they are held anchor to the rock, the star is able to regenerate them in a few weeks, but if in the meantime there is a day of waves, the star will not be able to stand up to the rock and will be slammed on the rocks

– they have a very particular respiratory system, only when touching the star they are removed a mucous substance that serves to absorb oxygen from the water (so they die suffocated), moreover if they are taken out of the water, contact with the air causes them embolisms, even if the star at the moment seems to survive, it can die after a few days from the embolism.

We therefore strongly invite you not to touch the starfish and to explain to everyone that they should not be touched at all. Please spread this post so that people read this information and don’t let the stars die without knowing the gravity of bringing starfish ashore.

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Web: David Oliveras