Every now and then a video of an animal doing what an animal always does takes the Internet by storm, purely because it’s not how people expected that animal to behave.
We’ve had the pufferfish video that went viral because everybody thought they filled themselves with air (they do not), and we’ve had the video of swimming seashells that went viral largely because people didn’t picture them swimming at all.
Now to that list add starfish, casually taking a stroll down a beach.
What, exactly, is going on? Adult sunflower sea stars can move at an astonishing speed of 1 meter (3 feet) per minute. This is accomplished using their 15,000 tube feet that cover their underbelly. Other species, like the leather star, are much slower. They travel at a slow 15 centimes (6 inches) per minute.
Starfish descended from bilateral animals (e.g. crustaceans or spiders). As a result, they move similarly to them. However, there are some notable differences. For example, to grip the ocean floor, the creature uses adhesive chemicals.
IFLScience reports, “The tube feet move in a wave, with one section of the arm attaching using chemicals as another area of the arm releases its grip (using other chemicals to detach itself from the surface).”
It’s never a good sign if a starfish is walking around on land. This is because they breathe by absorbing oxygen from seawater. On land, they quickly suffocate. Fortunately, the starfish in the video was rescued.
“WE PUT THE STARFISH IN THE WATER,” Zeb Hallock wrote on YouTube. “We did not take them out of the water, we found them walking/stranded on the beach at low tide and put them back into the ocean or tide pool. I took the video before putting that one back in the water because it was such an unusual sight. All the starfish (sea stars) we found alive on the beach were still alive when we put them back in the water.”
Starfish can live up to 35 years. Perhaps the one in this video is still alive!