Pycnopodia: The largest starfish is also the fastest. Without her, the ocean is doomed to enslavement by sea urchins
Who lives at the bottom of the ocean? Children will answer this simple-minded question very unequivocally and loudly, and biologists will list the animals until evening. However, there is a bottom dweller, who is recognized by both those, and those - a starfish. But today we will talk about the most titled type of these animals - the sunflower star, or pycnopodia.
Why the most titled? Well, firstly, because sunflower stars are the largest among their relatives. The creeping "flower" can fatten up to a meter in diameter. With such a size, five branches, as in standard stars, are clearly not enough. At least, the starfish itself decided so, increasing their number by 3-4 times!
But that's it, turn the starfish upside down and see hundreds of thousands of micro-legs! Such a number of walking and grasping accessories gives the animal a second title - the title of the fastest starfish. Pycnopodia "rush" at a speed of one meter per minute! Not impressive? And if I say that her relatives have an average acceleration of about 5 times less?
Do you still doubt the speed abilities of our heroine? Well, okay. The main thing is that the pycnopodia itself does not need high speeds for happiness - the predator's prey can barely crawl, if at all, so that it does not have problems in catching up.
You can find "sunflower fields" on the picturesque reliefs of the northern Pacific Ocean. There are underwater forests of algae rich in various living creatures. In the hunt for its inhabitants, the beast has honed its skills to the level of a serial killer.
She easily catches up with sea urchins, hermit crabs and weakened fish. By the way, in reality, the friendship of SpongeBob and Patrick would last exactly as long as the pycnopodia would crawl to a sea sponge. Their stars gnaw with the same pleasure as everyone else.
Neither scales, nor chitinous shells, nor even needles will save from the invasion of a starfish! The star swallows its prey whole, leaving bare skeletons after its meal. And if the food turns out to be too large, then the pycnopodia will release its stomach and begin to digest lunch just like that!
And if the pycnopodia loves to gut the bottom dwellers, then it does not excite it very much to love its relatives. Looking for a partner? Raising children? To hell with all this, the hunt does not wait! Stars of different sexes simply throw eggs and sperm into the water, hoping that they will somehow intersect themselves. If a miracle occurs, a small and not at all star-shaped larva is formed, which will turn into the likeness of parents only under the influence of the pheromones of an adult star.
With this level of carelessness in reproducing their own kind, extinction was only a matter of time. But now there is every chance that pycnopodia will finally disappear. And the sapiens are not even to blame. Sea stars were sharply knocked down by an incomprehensible infection 6 years ago, and they massively gave up - only some small populations remained. Without a bottom super-predator, unbelted sea urchins have bred to such an extent that they have eaten algae forests almost completely clean.
Scientists are trying to breed pycnodia in captivity and release them to their old habitats, but so far the population of giant Patrick is still hanging by a thread, alas.