Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s previous World of Wonder columns can be found here.
When you talk about basket stars (Gorgonocephalus eucnemis), you have to talk about moxie. A basket star isn’t a sea star—it travels as it pleases across sponges and coral with its five arms, not on tiny tubed feet like a sea star.
Basket stars are the biggest of all brittle stars—from tendrilly arm to even more tendrilly arm, basket stars measure about three feet long. These arms are a party waiting to happen—all tiny hooks and pins to catch arrow worms, plankton, and even tiny jellyfish. If ocean currents get too wild, the basket star doesn’t freak out and get all tangled up like some curly-fries nightmare. Instead, it quietly hunkers down and curls into a tight intestine-y mass. Marine biologists call this being cryptic among sponges. I call it being cool and collected. Here’s what it looks like just chilling, even though it had just been caught by a fisherman and is now hanging out on the side of a boat.
See? Forget honey badgers. Basket stars don’t care! It says Go ahead and stare all you want, I wanted to see the sunshine anyway. And did I mention they are bloodless? Nothing to spill but water that circulates and filters throughout their wildly extravagant bodies. At night, when they aren’t being cryptic, basket stars find a nice side of coral to hang onto and then it will extend its other four messy arms to sweep the ocean for tiny goodies, especially for their favorite arrow worms. Once their arms weigh heavier with food, the basket star draws them inward to the underbelly and into its mouth. Delish!
To fully appreciate how the basket star partakes of a meal of a fine and fragrant crustacean mist, watch here:
And now it’s your turn, Wonder-ful Ones: what animal eats in a strangely mesmerizing method of gobbling you can’t bear to look away, even though you want to? Let me know in the comments (preferably with video link) below!