Aug 9, 2013

Starfish species kids eat each other

Starfish species kids eat each other. Single parenting takes on new extremes for certain starfish that are hermaphrodites -- male and female at the same time and, in some cases, self-fertilizing. The species faces high risk of extinction, according to new research.

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The dire situation faced by the non-mating starfish, Parvulastra parvivipara and Parvulastra vivipara, helps to explain why so many organisms, including humans, have sex. Genetic diversity and the dispersal of youngsters support population growth.

The plight of the starfish, documented in the latest issue of the journal Biology Letters, reveals how a life without sex but with self-fertilization could result in eventual oblivion.

“There are quite a few reasons why these species are vulnerable,” senior author Michael Hart of Simon Fraser University’s Department of Biological Sciences told Discovery News. “The whole species could be wiped out.”

Hart and his team studied the starfish, which are restricted to high intertidal pools of South Australia and Tasmania. These starfish also go by the nickname "sea cushions," since they look a bit more like a cushion than a star when viewed from the side.