A child sea star may look innocent and cute. But they’re tiny, tiny cannibals and devour their own brothers and sisters for their own survival, according to a new study.
Two researchers discovered this behavior among the infant Forbes sea stars (Asterias forbesiThey were originally trying to understand how the baby sea stars reacted when they were introduced to the ferocious crab hunters in the lab.
“But they all started eating before we even introduced the crab, so we had to ditch that experiment,” said Jon Allen, associate professor in the William and Mary Department of Biology. Said in a statementSo Allen and his team shift gears to observe a previously unknown phenomenon among the baby sea stars.
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The Forbes sea star, commonly found on the east coast of the United States, can be between 4.7 and 9.4 inches (11.9 and 24 centimeters) in length when fully grown. According to National GeographicAllen said the juvenile sea stars are the parents the size of a pinhead. These sea stars go through a process known as metamorphosis, where they go from their immature form to the adult one, just as the caterpillars turn into butterflies.
Karina Brocco French, a doctoral student from the University of California, Irvine (who was an undergraduate who worked in Allen’s lab during this research, said these sea stars) .They are in this strange spaceship arena. About a month before they transformed into young sea stars and settled on the sea floor, Brocco French said in a statement.
Scientists already know that juveniles on the seafloor will eat much smaller embryos that sink to the bottom – but they don’t know that juveniles will eat each other. However, although the children and youth are similar in size. But the slightly larger ones tend to eat the smaller ones, according to the statement.
The French and Allen discovered that the infant sea star was involved in this cannibalistic behavior as early as four days after the transformation. They use multiple compartments of the stomach called The “heart stomach”, which they push out to swallow and break down food.
Sibling cannibalism could give each star an adaptive advantage, especially when adult female sea stars produce 5 million to 10 million eggs per year, Allen said.
While this animal does not know such behavior. But cannibalism is not uncommon in the animal kingdom, where more than 1,300 documented species (including humans) are on display in the statement. And researchers think cannibalism tends to be more prevalent among smaller animals, including juveniles.
The findings were published March 26 in the journal. ecology.
Originally published in Live Science.