Marine Species: Feather Stars     

Feather stars (also commonly known are crinoids) are part of the landscape on many reefs. Often mistaken for corals, they are also home to interesting marine life.

What are feather stars?

Often mistaken for corals, feather stars belong to the echinoderm family like starfish and sea urchins. They come in various sizes and color, from black to bright yellow or bright orange. There are over 500 species identified as of today.

Although they are mainly found in shallow, warm waters, some of them manage to survive in quite hostile environments, such as cold and deep waters.

As divers glide over the reef, feather stars are usually sitting on the coral or are at the bottom, moving in the current. They can actually crawl, walk and swim, and seeing them moving their tentacles in midwater is a graceful sight. 

Where do they live?

Feather stars inhabit reefs all over the world, including those in cold waters. They feed on small food particles, which they pick up by moving their feather-like arms. After they grab some food, they push it toward their mouth, which is in the center of their body. They usually inhabit shallow waters, and they prefer a reef with a bit of current so the food comes directly to them. Feather stars are usually nocturnal, but you can also observe them swimming or moving their tentacles during the day when they’re feeding or moving from one coral to another. 

What makes feather stars cool?

Feather stars have a symbiotic relationship with other sea creatures, such as the anemone and the clownfish. They offer shelter to animals that are also feeding on the microorganisms living in the feather star. They are host to the tiny crinoid shrimp, which match exactly the color of the feather star they live in. At the bottom of the feather star near its feet, you may also spot a crinoid squat lobster, with colors matching the ones of his host. Different colored feather stars are also a long-time photographer favorite, as they add a lot of color to photos. 

How do I spot a feather star’s residents?

Crinoid shrimp and crabs are very, very tiny creatures. Patience is going to be your key ally here. In calm conditions, get close to the feather stars and observe for a little while. You will have a better chance of spotting a crinoid shrimp if the feather star’s arms are moving.