What Do Starfish Eat? - Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

The next time you see a starfish, you'll remember what you learned in this lesson about the most unusual way that starfish eat! In this lesson, you'll also find out what starfish eat, and how to feed a pet starfish.

Starfish or Sea Stars?

The animal that you know as a 'starfish' is getting a new name! Marine biologists are trying to get people to start calling them 'sea stars' instead of 'starfish' because they aren't really fish. They're actually related to sea urchins and sand dollars, and they only live in saltwater, not freshwater.

Starfish on rocks
seastar1

A sea star is an invertebrate animal, which means that it doesn't have a back bone. There are many different kinds of starfish, some of which can live as long as 35 years in the wild. They aren't really very small; starfish can grow to be as much as 9 inches across and they can weigh up to 11 pounds. Some starfish need to eat every day, while some can go much longer without eating.

Sea Stars Are Carnivores!

Believe it or not, a starfish (or sea star) is a carnivore, which means it eats other animals. Because starfish are very slow movers, they eat animals that also move slowly. They usually feed on coral, sponges, clams, oysters, sand dollars, and mussels because these animals also attach themselves to rocks and move slowly, so they are nearby.

Some starfish will also eat other animals, such as fish, if they are injured and unable to move away in time. Starfish also eat animals and plants that are already dead and decomposing on the beach or in the rocks.

Starfish eat in a very unusual way. They use their feet, which have suction-cups on the bottom, to help them hold on to their prey. Once they have a good grip on dinner, they use their feet to open it up if it's a clam or oyster. Once the it's opened, the starfish's stomach actually comes out of its mouth, and pushes itself inside of the clam or mussel shell. The stomach surrounds the edible parts of the animal and digests it, and doesn't return back into the starfish's mouth until dinner is turned into a soupy liquid.

The mouth of a starfish is on its underside
mouth

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