A Sea Star’s Tale
This is a story, a story about a sea star named Echinoderm, phylum Echinodermata, as he’s formally introduced and “Spiny Skin” to his friends. Echinoderm is part of the Echinoderm phylogeny and if I do say myself, I always thought it was sort of pretentious of him to take the name; as if he were king of them all, but I’m just a simple narrator… no one really asks for my opinion on any matter.
Echinoderm lives in the marine and if you ask him, he has it all. He has an organ system, a complete digestive system, even developed coelom but he lacks cephalization and good riddance to it. “That’s just asking for trouble,” he sputters, “you don’t group all your nuts in one spot! One swoop and you lose the lot! How ridiculous!” He chortles quite hilariously, “I bet you even consider segmentation a good idea.” He shakes with the humor of the thought, “I move just fine without so much to look after, thank you.” He leans upon his brothers the sea cucumber, sea urchins, and sand dollars and they laugh until the questioner leaves. A very unkindly bunch, pincer skins, indeed; but, it does no good to tell them so for most have hard fused skeletons that make any comment hard to get through. The sea cucumber is more likely to poison you than give a care to your critic. Personally, I don’t fear Echinoderm’s family. He’s the only one that hunts food. All the others are bottom feeders; I’ll fear them when I’m algae or dead.
Echinoderm is a very vain sea star. He likes to pirouette on one or two tentacles and remark on his five mirror form. “Any which way you picture me, I’ll be just as beautiful.” He comments to a crowd as he spins low on the ground. Sure he can be cut five ways and look the same but I much rather liked his smaller, silent, bilateral larva life. Now even cutting off his limbs doesn’t do to ruin his radial symmetry, he just grows it back and laughs once more with his brothers. I rue the day his cells formed the five-sided disc that turned inside out and consumed the remainder of his small cuteness. Life with Echinoderm might have been different without all the spikes and tube feet.
Speaking of Echinoderm’s feet, they’re as annoying as they are amazing. While his brothers either burrow into soft things or paddle through the water, Echinoderm glides along surfaces. His tube feet both grip and glide while also detecting touch or chemicals. Echinoderm might claim that his nervous system is the most amazing thing about him, nerves spreading down his limbs and surrounding his impressive gut but his water vascular system is the key to his greatness. The enclosed, water-filled canals create suction and even excrete Echinoderm’s waste. When I tell him that they may even help him breath he points his tentacle at me, contracting his muscles to make the little tube feet turn every which way, “You, ma’am, have a foot fetish and I will have none of it.” He pats his body, “My skin gills help me breathe just as my brother, sea cucumber’s, respiratory tree helps him breathe.” He extends and retracts each tube foot in my face, “My feet are for moving and now I shall move away from you.”
As Echinoderm glides away to never have any more contact with me, the sea cucumber staying behind to laugh at me, I think about the different ways I may cook the sea cucumber. I tell him that I can make an edible delicacy of his reproductive organs called uni. This relieves me of the sea cucumber’s laughs and I move on to find the crown-of-thorns sea star, for as un-enjoyable as Echinoderm’s company was, his story wasn’t the one I originally planned to receive. I was in search of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef destroyer; but, alas, another time, another story.