Starfish, or more accurately sea stars, are typically viewed as predators. However, as with most other creatures in the sea, the starfish has a dual role as both predator and prey. While starfish rely heavily on various species of mollusk for survival, they are also subject to predation by some larger species of that genus. Starfish are not fast-moving creatures, and utilize camouflage and sharp spines on their exoskeleton to dissuade predators. Consequently starfish are typically eaten by creatures that are mobile and able to find starfish hiding on the ocean floor, and capable of chewing and digesting their spines.
Triggerfish refer to various medium to large sized fish that inhabit subtropical waters the world over. They are brightly colored and possess powerful jaws that are able to break through the tough exterior of the starfish.
The giant triton refers to various large sea snails. Tritons will actively pursue a starfish and incapacitate it with their toxin-possessing saliva. Giant tritons will also turn on a starfish that has attempted to attack it, and will prey upon even the largest species of starfish. Their acidic saliva breaks down the exoskeleton and spines of the starfish, enabling the snail to digest the starfish in its entirety.
Sharks, and the related rays and other bony fish, are capable of crushing a starfish's exoskeleton. The starfish is a slow-moving creature, so any species of fish with sufficient jaw strength to crush the exoskeleton can play the role of predator. The starfish thus relies upon camouflage to protect itself against fast-moving predators such as sharks. The wide variety of coloration found in starfish species reflects their many habitats.
Rock crabs can and do predate upon starfish. Rock crabs are capable of crushing the shell of a sea snail, and can similarly crush and consume the exoskeleton of the starfish. They are voracious eaters, with powerful pincers capable of grasping and holding on to the slower-moving starfish. A starfish is capable of regenerating an arm if lost, and will use this behavior to attempt to escape from a rock crab.
The sea otter is an aquatic mammal that is capable of prying apart mollusk shells, having strong claws and powerful jaws. Otters are able to break through the starfish's bony exoskeleton as well as chew and digest their sharp spines.
Gulls and Other Shorebirds
Seagulls are another predator of the starfish. Their powerful beaks enable them to break through the exoskeleton of the starfish. They can then pick the meat from the starfish, avoiding the sharp spines and scales.
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