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All-Star Asteroids

A guide for picking the best and avoiding the worst sea stars for your setup.

By Bob Fenner |

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Sea stars are frequently associated with the seashore and are instantly identified by neophytes as reef organisms. So why are so few kept in our marine aquariums? Solving this puzzling disconnect is the purpose of this article. Just what are sea stars? What roles do they play in natural environments? And why is it so hard to find a good one?

Sea stars are echinoderms, or one of five living classes of the phylum Echinodermata, a group aptly labeled “spiny-skinned animals.” They belong to the class Asteroidea. Echinoderms also include sea cucumbers, crinoids (sea lilies), brittle stars and basket stars, sea urchins and sand dollars, which are all some of the most readily identifiable sea creatures. Outright or secondary radial pentamerous symmetry is a unifying characteristic of the Echinodermata; that is, instead of our bilateral (or mirror-image) appearance, echinoderms have a pinwheel of five sections. Dissecting a spiny-skinned animal reveals this arrangement internally, as it is not always easy to see from the outside.

Want to read the full story? Pick up the September 2011 issue of Aquarium Fish International today.

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