|Driftwood on the beach at Hunting Island.|
molluscivore, meaning it feeds on mollusks. Specifically, the Forbes Sea Star feeds on bivalve mollusks, which are mollusks that are enclosed by two shell parts which are attached by a hinge. Bivalves include commonly-known mollusks like clams, oysters, mussels, etc. The Forbes Sea Star tracks down bivalves by honing in on the chemical "smell" of bivalves. Once it senses a bivalve, the sea star will crawl toward it. Upon reaching it, the sea star will then grab the bivalve with its tube feet (which you can see in the photo above). The sea star then uses its tube feet to pry the bivalve's shell open, exposing the helpless mollusk inside. This is when things get a little strange. Instead of "swallowing" the squishy mollusk body like you might think it would, the Forbes Sea Star does things a bit differently. It pushes its stomach out of its body and up against the body of the mollusk where it then excretes digestive enzymes that begin to break the mollusk down. The stomach then absorbs the resulting nutrients before getting pulled back into the sea star's body. Pretty crazy, isn't it?
|Sand Dollars, with a live individual on the left, and a dead individual on the right.|
The Atlantic Blue Crab is a commonly consumed crab, and is also a very economically important species for the Atlantic Coast. However, there's some trouble. The Atlantic Blue Crab population has been declining for some time. It is estimated that the population declined from 900 million individuals to approximately 300 million individuals from the mid-1990's to 2004. In the Chesapeake Bay region, where the Atlantic Blue Crab is most heavily harvested, the population is estimated to have decreased by nearly 70% over the past few decades. Overharvesting is, as you might have guessed, a major problem, but several other factors, including diseases and habitat degradation, are to blame as well. These declining trends suggest an upcoming battle between conservationists advocating for the protection of the Atlantic Blue Crab and the crabbers who rely on this species to make a living. Hopefully it doesn't get to that point, but this is a scenario that is played out much too often nowadays...
I know this is a very different subject matter than what I normally get the chance to write about, so hopefully you enjoyed it! Thanks for reading!