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Asexual Reproduction in Starfish

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  • 0:01 Regeneration & Asexual…
  • 1:02 Fissiparity
  • 2:35 Autonomy of Limbs
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Joanne Abramson

Joanne has taught middle school and high school science for more than ten years and has a master's degree in education.

Starfish are weird creatures. Not only can they grow new arms, their arms can grow new bodies! Read on to learn more about the fascinating world of asexual reproduction in starfish.

Regeneration & Asexual Reproduction

It would be pretty awesome if humans could regenerate their limbs. Lizards can regrow their tails, spiders can regrow legs, and even deer can regrow their antlers. Losing a leg wouldn't be a worry if we simply got a new one in a few months or years. Even stranger, though, what if not only you grew a new leg, but your leg grew a new you? As peculiar as that may sound, a few types of starfish are able to do just that. Additionally, that is only one type of asexual reproduction they have at their fingertips.

Asexual reproduction, as the name implies, is reproduction without sex; the prefix 'a-' means 'not'. An organism that undergoes asexual reproduction makes an exact genetic copy of itself, a clone. Although sexual reproduction is far more common, some types of starfish are able to complete asexual reproduction. The two types of asexual reproduction observed in starfish are fissiparity and autonomy.

Fissiparity

Fissiparity is found in three genera of starfish, Coscinasterias, Stephanasterias and Sclerasterias. To keep this in perspective, there are over 1800 species of starfish in more than 500 genera. So, really, it's not that common.

'Genera' is plural for 'genus.' In biological classification, the genus is the second most specific level of organization. The kingdom is the most broad (starfish and humans are both in the animal kingdom) and the species is the most specific. In fact, the genus is part of the scientific name of a particular species, and the two terms are written together. The scientific name for humans is Homo sapien. Homo is the genus and sapien is the species. Coscinasterias calamaria and Coscinasterias tenuispina are two species in the genus Coscinasterias. Both of these species reproduce through fissiparity.

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