The Natural History of the Thread Starfish

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This blog tells the story of the discovery, examination and classification of a new order of Starfish, Linumasteroideae, the Thread Starfish. These rare and localised species of starfish are found only along the north coast of Norfolk.

The Rumour

Unconfirmed reports talk of a giant starfish washed up during last year's spring leap tide somewhere along the shore of Scolt Head Island, the much studied sand spit on the North Norfolk Coast. The specimen has since disappeared, probably into the hands of a collector, but stories abound of the discovery of an intact starfish more than a metre and a half in diameter. Unlikely though it seems, this huge starfish may also be a member of the extremely localised Linumasteroidea species. So far, an appeal in the Eastern Daily Press to make the specimen available for scientific study has failed to reveal any traces of the specimen or further information about where it was found.

I have walked the length of the island whenever possible studying the tideline, a distance of some 6km, and always after the particularly high leap tides. I frequently find the more common species of starfish washed up, although what is now considered common in these days of turbulent changes in climate and the tropical sea conditions we now find off Norfolk, would have definitely been considered exotic until recently. The warmer, clearer waters and abundance of food on the newly formed coral reefs just offshore have certainly contributed to an increase in size in the starfish found and a 20 cm starfish is no longer a rarity, but a starfish this large seems an impossibility.