Tag Archives: brittle star

Bahamas: The Brittle Star

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I am all about luxury hotels and being comfortable.  But I am also all about going on excursions and getting my hair wet, wearing no make-up and taking ugly photos the whole time.  Great Exuma was the perfect combination.  The minute I saw swimming pigs, I was following Ken around the house reading from our Fodor’s Caribbean book, “Ooooh and then they have iguanas and nurse sharks and a starfish reserve and turtle cay…and we can stay at Sandals.”  I’m sure he was rolling his eyes the whole time.  I don’t blame him, my daydreaming about travels can be intense at times.  Okay, probably all the time.  Luckily for me, he quickly agreed Great Exuma needed to be our next trip.

On our last full day in Great Exuma, we headed out on a “ocean safari” tour with Island Routes.  Unfortunately, it was a little too windy to do the full day tour we had signed up for.  We were bummed but we would take what we could get.  We got a nice second swim with the famous swimming pigs and got to feed some very hungry iguanas as well as check out multiple cays.

Once the iguanas returned to basking in the sun upon realization that the grapes were all gone, we began to wander around the small cay.  It was beautiful with lush green brush and the bluest water I have ever seen.  We walked down the narrow strip of beach towards the rock pool.

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The co-captain exclaims, “Awesome!  I was hoping to find one of these!”  I recoil as he shows us what looks [to me] like a freaky spider he found under a rock in the low tide.  After further inspection, I realize he is holding a brittle star.  I’m no expert (and apparently he wasn’t either) but I am fairly sure it is a spiny brittle star.  Me being me, I want to touch.

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The captain sets the star down on Ken’s arm and jokes that it looks like he has acquired a new tattoo on his other arm.  It just wraps its long flexible arms around Ken’s forearm and doesn’t even attempt to crawl away.  Then one of its arms falls off.  No joke.  Its arm. just. falls. off!  I begin to panic.  We have just killed it.  Oh geez, it is going to die.  Where is the blood?  Why do I always have to go and touch things!  Wait a minute, Ken touched it.  Not me.  Not my fault.  No bad karma here.

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Then the captain calms everyone down, “They fall off as a defense tactic. It will grow back right away.”  Oh, thank goodness!  Hand it over, then, Kenneth!  MY TURN!

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Yeah, it still creeped me out to hold it.  It looks like a gigantic spider.  I hate spiders.  But it was harmless and actually felt incredibly neat.  The central disc that makes up their body actually felt nearly silky and incredibly fragile.  Apparently, others didn’t like the looks of this guy because no one else wanted to hold him.  More for me, I got to place him gently back under his rock to go back to munching on planktonic organisms or whatever he was up to.

Upon our return home, I made a point to read up on these brittle stars.  And I gotta admit they are pretty neat little sea creatures.  These invertebrates make up a portion of the sea star family, having over 2000 different varieties.  They bury themselves, like our friend under the rock, for protection and leave a few arms free to catch their food.  They mostly eat at night, passing food down through their mouth located in the central disc.  But the coolest thing about these guys is that they can regenerate their arms at a rapid rate.  It was nice to have confirmation on that!

How can you help these guys thrive?  Recycle.  Recycle.  Recycle!  Also make sure that when you get an oil change or do one yourself, the oil is recycled – it can be re-refined and re-used.  Many of our oceans special creatures are harmed or killed by trash and the nearly 220 million gallons of oil illegally disposed of from the United States alone.

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On to the next cay!

 

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