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The Surprising Story of Sea Stars' Sticky Feet

February 9, 2018

Sea stars are known for their tight grips. But what's their secret? Scientists have long suspected it has to do with their tube feet, which protrude along the undersides of sea stars arms. Depending on the species, sea stars can have thousands of tube feet. 

 

We traveled to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla, California to get an up-close look. How do you think tube feet work? 

Got any ideas? When scientists first examined sea stars, they assumed that the tube feet use suction. Like a suction cup! 

 

In our episode, we talk to Chris Mah, sea star scientist and author of Echinoblog, the definitive resource for all things echinoderm. He wrote a post about this very topic.

 

The whole "tube feet use suction" paradigm is a powerful one that has been observed since some of the earliest work on starfish in the 1840s. 

 

Its a powerful and seemingly straightforward idea. Tube feet have what appears to be a suction cup on the tip of their tube feet, and so, therefore, shouldn't it work like one??

 

Could this long-standing notion... BE WRONG???

 

It turns out, it is! For all the scientific details, read Chris' blog posts: 

 

Starfish Leave footprints! aka How Starfish Tube Feet Work! (21st Century version)
 
Echinoderm Tube Feet Don't Suck! They Stick!
 

New research really flipped our understanding of sea stars on its head. Just like in this video from the Birch Aquarium. See the ninja/ yoga style move of a sea star flipping itself over!

 

 

Take a look at the rest of Lindsay's images from her trip to the aquarium!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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