While I was waiting for a dentist’s appointment and flipping through a magazine about animals, I came across a unique article about predators of starfishes.
It took me quite by surprise because I always thought starfishes are pretty bony, and their tough exoskeletons make these invertebrates quite inedible, even for marine creatures.
But a marine biologist friend told me that starfishes are pretty nutritious for several aquatic creatures.
Moreover, because their movement is relatively slow, they are the perfect prey for many marine animals.
So hearing this unusual anecdote about creatures that eat starfishes, I decided to compile a list of creatures that love to eat the echinoderm.
Animals that eat starfish:
- Manta rays
Table of Contents
- List of animals that eat starfish:
List of animals that eat starfish:
Seagulls, especially the larger ones, are known predators of starfishes. The white-headed gulls are primarily dependent on the sea stars for their nutritional requirement.
You will find that these birds can consume whole starfishes. Although seagulls consume other marine creatures like fishes, crabs, and worms, they prefer starfish.
Research shows that the population of starfishes can decline severely when seagulls assemble in a particular bay.
On rare occasions, if the seagull finds that the particular starfish is too big, it can break off a limb from the echinoderm to consume.
This can prove to be helpful as the starfish can re-grow the limb.
Lobsters can eat small shellfish, clams, mussels, and even starfishes.
When eating starfishes, the hard exoskeleton of the echinoderm offers no resistance to the ‘teeth’ that are in the stomach of the lobsters.
If you have ever observed a lobster eating its food, it will be chewed in its stomach.
There are three molar-like teeth in the lobster’s stomach, known as the ‘gastric mill,’ and it is here that the tough exoskeleton of the starfish is broken.
Medium-sized lobsters may not consume the larger starfishes, but they can quickly eat the smaller ones.
However, if the lobster is a big one, it can consume an entire starfish.
Sharks are natural marine predators, and they are apex hunters that are known for eating a lot of food.
The sharp jaws and teeth of sharks can easily break through fish bones as well as the hard exoskeletons of the starfishes.
However, not all sharks eat sea stars. Only the nurse, horn, and Port Jackson sharks have been recorded to consume starfish.
Sharks that hunt near the bottom of the sea consume starfishes.
The primary reason sharks avoid eating starfishes is that the nutritional requirements of these predators are pretty significant, and the small starfishes are not sufficient to fulfill them.
There is not much meat in the lean bodies of starfishes, and it is not sufficient to fulfill the appetite of a massive shark.
Hence, you will generally find sharks hunting octopuses, fishes, squids, and even smaller sharks.
Starfishes form a part of their diet when they do not have other food.
Otters eat different types of marine creatures, including crustaceans like crabs and invertebrates like snails.
You will find that sea stars often feature in their daily diet, provided they can find these.
In the wild, otters can hunt for starfishes in the crevices of rocks and the water left behind in tide pools.
Smaller starfishes are often found in tide pools, and these are the favorite hunting grounds of medium diving otters.
Otters that can dive deep into the sea can reach for these echinoderms that are deeper below sea levels and grab hold of the starfishes with their forelimbs.
Otters can often store the extra food they collect by foraging the depths of the sea in ‘pockets’ underneath their forelimbs, which are like extra skin that they can use for storage.
The otters can sometimes store the starfishes in these ‘pockets’ that they can consume later on.
Sea turtles can eat different types of marine creatures such as snails, leeches, slugs, clams as well as starfishes.
The sharp beak and strong jaws of the sea turtles can easily break the limbs of a starfish. When a turtle grabs a starfish, it cannot escape the grasp of the reptile.
One thing that the starfish can do is break off the limb, but if the turtle has grabbed hold of the entire sea star, then there is no escape for the echinoderm.
Starfishes are often a preferred prey for turtles because they are slow-moving.
Giant turtles can consume an entire starfish whereas smaller sea turtles can quickly flip the starfishes over to consume the fleshy part of the creature.
Whales have a varied diet, and it depends on whether they have teeth or baleen plates.
For example, blue whales have baleen plates, which means these creatures will consume four tons of krill every day.
But when they take in mouthfuls of water, even if a starfish enters into its mouth, it will get filtered through its baleen plate.
Therefore, you cannot say that it ‘eats’ starfishes.
But when compared to a blue whale, smaller whales with teeth like beaked whales, orcas, and sperm whales hunt fishes, squids, and other marine and land animals like penguins.
Research has shown that these toothed whales sometimes consume starfishes as well.
However, starfishes are not sufficient to fulfill their dietary needs.
Whales are apex predators, and the flesh of a sea star is not enough to satisfy their appetites. Hence, starfishes usually form a small part of a whale’s diet.
7. Manta rays
Manta rays are one of the most common predators of starfishes.
Manta rays are closely related to sharks, and they are primarily found in the warm waters around the island.
They are mostly found near coral reefs, and one of their favorite foods is starfish. How manta rays feed on these creatures is also unlike other animals.
They sieve their food with the help of filters. But unlike whales, starfishes do not pass through this sieve. The echinoderm forms a part of the diet of the manta ray.
The manta ray can consume the hard exoskeleton of the starfish as well as the soft flesh.