Tiny Star

02 November, 2007

Paddle-spined seastar
Paddle-spined seastar
Image: Chris Rowley & Mark O'Loughlin
Source: Museum Victoria

World’s smallest seastar found by Museum Victoria scientists.

Measuring less than five millimetres, it has been named the 'Paddle-spined seastar', after the fringe of plates around each arm. These are believed to help the animal nestle in seaweed and prevent it being swept away by waves.

Currently being described by Museum Honorary Associate Mark O'Loughlin and visiting Research Associate Milena Benavides from Colombia, this tiny species lives hidden amongst algae and sponges in Port Phillip Bay and along the Victorian coastline.

Like some larger seastars, the Paddle-spined seastar can divide into two pieces, with each half regrowing into a complete animal.

'We are very excited by this world-first find for Museum Victoria. Because of its small size it has been completely overlooked until now,’ explained Dr Tim O’Hara, Senior Curator, Marine Invertebrates, Museum Victoria.

’Not much else is known about this cryptic creature and we look forward to conducting further research,’ he added.

Museum Victoria’s marine biology team conduct research on the ecology, evolution and bio-geography of various components of the marine fauna of southern Australia and elsewhere in the southern oceans. They play a leading role in providing information about the evolutionary history and biodiversity of Australia's marine fauna.

This unique find will be featured in the upcoming Museum Victoria Field Guide series of books. A comprehensive guide for the amateur and professional naturalist, An Introduction to Marine Life will be the first title in the series to be produced throughout 2007 – 2008.  Other titles will include Crabs, Hermit Crabs and Allies, Shrimps, Prawns and Lobsters, Barnacles and Sea Spiders.

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