Climate change is a mega disaster for almost every living being, since it has the potential to wipe everything out with disasters it can cause. However, not every single living being is feeling threatened, actually.
There are some ‘winners’ in such catastrophic conditions, actually. Feather stars belong to those winners. Because instead of suffering from the warming ocean and frequent disasters, they can live their lives just well.
What is the difference between feather stars and other sea creatures? Well, they have special feature that can avoid them from grave danger: rapid regeneration. The question is, how can such ‘simple’ ability save them from climate change?
Here in this article, we are going to talk about the animal, and its triumph over devastating climate change.
What is feather star? This creature is a marine invertebrate that has long feathery arms for feeding and movement. The arms have Velcro-like ability, so that any kind of prey coming close is most likely got caught without being able to escape.
It is one of more than 500 Crinoid marine invertebrate species. It can be found especially in shallow water, attaching themselves on the reefs and ‘dancing’ with their feather-like arms following the flow of underwater current.
This creature is an important part of the ecosystem, because the feces of this animal is high in calorie when they live in warmer water condition. Many marine creatures are feeding on the feces of feather stars, actually.
Feather stars have not got much attention from the researchers before. But climate change has brought this creature into the spotlight. Why now? Because of climate change, global ocean water gets warmer, and this creature’s presence becomes more significant than ever.
Angela Stevenson of the University of British Columbia is one of the first researchers to study the connection of this creature and climate change. From her study, she found that starting from now, feather star’s population might increase in significant number.
The Help From Warmer Ocean
Climate change, especially warming ocean water, may cause several troubles to marine animals, most of those lead to death. So it is no wonder that most marine creature population is dwindling nowadays. But researchers said that it doesn’t apply to feather stars.
Feather star is one of a few creatures that prefer warmer water. Researchers found that feather stars can regrow their broken limbs almost indefinitely. In warmer water temperature, the regeneration rate is higher.
“We know some species seem to do quite well in warming temperatures. They regenerate arms faster when we elevate temperature,” as Angela Stevenson said to National Geographic in an interview about this creature.
Researchers found this ability is amazing in this world’s current condition, that they start to think that this animal is almost immortal. If fact, there is only one part of their body that they cannot regrow, which is the centradorsal (the central disk where the limbs are growing from)!
“We’re unsure about their lifespan, but I’m starting to think these animals are immortal. They can pretty much grow back to their full size as long as part of their centradorsal (the central disk where all arms radiate from) is intact,” said Stevenson.
Kings Of The Reef
Aside from their centradorsal, feather stars can just break and regrow any broken limbs, or those that don’t really function well. It gives them the ability to always be at their best conditions any time, even after severe predator attacks.
In addition to that regenerative ability, warmer ocean temperature also helps the creature to have better breeding environment. Yes, climate change has helped the creature to kill their babies’ predators, providing them better environment to raise their babies.
Medium-sized fish are their main predators, and we know that fish are sensitive to the slightest change in environment. In warmer water condition, the population of fish is dwindling as we have already known. But with better regeneration rate and less predator, feather stars are reaching the top of power.
Having existed for more than 200 million years and have survived any disaster that this world has faced, researchers think that these two main features are the reason why. In this situation, no wonder that researchers thought that they might become the new “king of the reefs”.
Well, they have existed for that long time, but have never once they became the “king of the reefs”. With more chance for the babies to live happy lives, and their ability to heal themselves faster, it might be their time.
2 Degree Celsius
Climate change that causes warmer ocean water temperature might be a bless for feather stars. However, for many other creatures, it is apocalypse-level-disaster. While feather stars seem to enjoy warmer water and less predator, but the predators themselves are suffering from the condition.
It is a common sense predators are needed to bring balance to the nature. Without the presence of predators, the population of creatures which play the role as preys will bloom. And if they are not in the bottom of the pyramid, they will eradicate all those creatures below them.
Feather stars live on eating small organisms and particles drifting underwater, like algae and planktons. We know that they are not the only predator for those organisms, and if the number of feather star is blooming, it is possible that feather stars will dominate the ocean.
Don’t you know that the predators of feather stars are pretty common? Various small crabs, shrimps, and sea worms live on feather stars. The predators are not as ‘bad’ as what comes to our minds when we hear the word ‘predator’.
Every creature on this planet has its own role to play, as well as those predators. So, we should not only support the existence of feather stars, but also their predators. Can you imagine a world without small crabs, shrimps, and sea worms?
We need to keep our planet’s temperature to increase at most 2 degrees Celsius. How to do that? ‘Simply’ just reduce our harmful energy consumption and plant more trees.