The best place to find starfish is on a rocky beach that has lots of tide pools. At low tide, these rocky enclosures become microcosms of life, harboring everything from stranded hermit crabs to starfish hiding under rocks. Carefully make your way across the usually slippery rocks to the nearest tide pool to start your search. You may find starfish half-hidden under rocks or even in plain sight on the bottom of the pool. They come in an assortment of colors, including red, orange, yellow and sometimes purple. Many species of starfish have five legs and do look like five-pointed stars. Exceptions include the brittle star, which does have five legs but they are long and thin, and the millipede starfish that has nine legs.
Touch But Don't Take
Many states and parks have laws that forbid the removal of live animals or plants. For example, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources notes that it is legal to touch or pick up a live starfish, but not to collect it. If the starfish is alive, the little tube feet on the underside will move. Put this one back where you found it. A dead starfish will appear pale and dried out. In most cases it's legal to take this one home. But it's best to check with local and state governments in the area you are visiting to be sure.
Where to Find Starfish
According to National Geographic, there are roughly 2,000 species of starfish in the world's oceans. They are found in the tropics as well as in more temperate climates, making your chances of finding them on a rocky ocean beach quite promising. If you are starfish hunting along the North American Pacific Coast, it might be a bit more difficult. The animals are being affected by sea star wasting syndrome on beaches all the way from Baja California to Alaska. Identified as some sort of virus, it is causing an alarming die-off of starfish.
- Starfish Facts: Locating a Starfish
- Know It All.org, an ETV Educational Web Portal: Collecting Seashells & Other Seaside Specimens
- Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring: Trends and Synthesis; Current Map
- University of Santa Cruz: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
- National Geographic: Starfish (Sea Star)
- Photo Credit JaxPhotographyCali/iStock/Getty Images
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