How to catch a Starfish
I thought it would be pretty easy to find a starfish at Starfish Point, in Grand Cayman. After all it's in the name right? Presumably there is a surfeit of these spindly creatures streamed across the shallow waters of the beach. Imagine my utter surprise when I jumped in and saw a great big nothing. The water at Starfish Point rose to my ribcage from where I jumped in from the anchored boat. I could see my feet in the sand through the clear water, but not a single starfish. Where could they have possibly gone and how did they go? Has anyone actually seen a starfish move?
Curiosity has led me to discover that starfish are in fact surprisingly sophisticated walkers. Their body is essentially a hydraulic machine which sucks in seawater through a hole in the centre of the starfish. The water is then pressure dispersed through the body and into each limb, from the bottom of which a thousand little feet use the water pressure to move the starfish in the direction of its choosing. How does it know where it's going? Starfish actually have eyes at the end of each limb. Yet, they lack a brain to process that information the same way we, humans, do. They must be doing something right though as they've been on this planet for at least 450 million years - in comparison modern humans scarcely count as infants at 300,000 thousand years. And on top of that we can't even regenerate. A starfish can grow back severed limbs and some of the species can even regenerate a whole new body from a broken limb. If that's not evidence of alien life on earth, what is?
Waddling through the water for several minutes produced no further results for me but eventually I heard some excited commotion from another group of tourists. They managed to locate two starfish and were calling everyone on the beach to have a look. The captured starfish were enthusiastically passed around like newly discovered pirate gold. When my turn came, I was surprised at the weight of the starfish and the rigid firmness of its body. A special protein in the starfish allows it to petrify its muscles and cease all movement for long periods of time. The sucker was playing dead. When I got a hold of the second starfish I was delighted to see that it was visibly different from its temporarily departed friend. The colours and decorative dots on its surface where distinctly unique. We enjoyed our encounter with the starfish for a few more minutes, always making sure that the seawater covered their bodies, and eventually let them flop back into the ocean.
If you want to check out Starfish Point it's good to get there early to be first on site. There is a fun floating dock for children to play on, and some good beach space for general lounging. I arrived by boat, which you can charter from Georgetown. Alternatively, Starfish Point is accessible by car.
Find Starfish Point on Google Maps.
If you get hungry on your adventures, pop into Kaibo for some delicious food and ocean views.
To charter a boat for the day, I'd recommend DNS Diving.
Check out National Geographic's amazing slideshow of different starfish species.
Read about Starfish anatomy in Scientific American.