Brooding cushion star on the SS Maori

Sea life: Brooding cushion star

The first time I spotted a brooding cushion star, on an eye-wateringly cold dive on the SS Maori, I was reminded of nothing so much as a cupcake or similar edible baked good. These sea stars are fairly rare (according to A Field Guide to Marine Animals of the Cape Peninsula) and are found all around the South African coastline. When threatened they apparently secrete mucous to deter their predators.

Brooding cushion star on the SS Maori
Brooding cushion star on the SS Maori

These sea stars have a soft outer skin that is supported by a layer of spines, beneath which lies another layer of skin. The space between the two skins is used as a brooding chamber for eggs, and once the eggs have hatched the young sea stars emerge from a ventilation hole on the top of the mother. Prior to the eggs’ hatching, the ventilation hole is used to suck in and expel water which aerates the eggs.

Brooding cushion star on 13th Apostle reef
Brooding cushion star on 13th Apostle reef

I saw another of these tasty-looking sea stars on 13th Apostle reef, also in the Atlantic. I haven’t seen one in False Bay yet.

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Clare

Lapsed mathematician, creator of order, formulator of hypotheses. Lover of the ocean, being outdoors, the bush, reading, photography, travelling (especially in Africa) and road trips.

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