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Starfish with record eight legs is found off British coast


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Starfish with record eight legs is found off British coast



By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 9:27 AM on 23rd October 2009




A starfish thought to be the first in the world with eight legs has been found off the British coast, it emerged today.

The bizarre creature, which has three more limbs than normal, was discovered inside a Cornish fisherman’s crab pot.

Sea life experts at the Blue Reef Aquarium in Newquay – where it is on display – believe it may be two spiny starfishes in the form of conjoined twins.


article-0-06E8D67B000005DC-50_634x672.jpg Star attraction: The giant eight-legged creature below a regular five-limbed starfish at an aquarium in Newquay

Curator Matt Slater explained: ‘Starfish have the ability to re-grow lost limbs and the general consensus is that starfish with extra legs are caused by some kind of accidental genetic mutation.

‘However with this particular starfish it has three extra legs and it also has two special openings - known as madreporites - through which water is pumped into their fluid filled skeleton.

‘An individual starfish would normally only have one of these.

‘As a result we believe this starfish may have a rare doubling of its genetic material,’ he added.

The 10in-wide creature, which is around an inch bigger than average, has left experts across Britain stunned.

Douglas Herdson, a marine biologist, said: ‘I’ve never seen a spiny with eight legs. It should have five. I have seen them with one, four, or six, as well as five.

‘I think it’s probably conjoined twins. It is quite feasible that it is a conjoined twin due to the first fertilised egg not completely separating. I have never heard of one before.’

The starfish, which has been put in a the Octopus tank so is with fellow eight-legged creatures, was found by Newquay-based crabber Gary Eglington in a pot off St Agnes.

The creature appears to be in excellent health and the fact that he was found inside the vessel would also suggest that he has no problem finding food.

The spiny starfish gets its name from the lines of bulbous spines that run along each of its arms.

At the end of each of these arms are photosensitive cells that can detect movement.

It is one of the most voracious members of the starfish family and feeds on a variety of both living and dead food including fish, shellfish, molluscs and other starfish.

It lives on rocky bottoms from surface to depths up to 600ft and is found in the Atlantic Ocean, the English Channel, the North Sea and the Mediterranean Sea.

Often blamed for attacks on mussel and oyster farms, fishermen would historically cut them up and throw them back into the sea, not realising this would actually result in more starfish as a single leg and part of the starfish’s central disc can replicate into a new animal.

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