GARDEN CITY, S.C. (WPDE) – Starfish, or Gray Sea Stars, are the latest marine invertebrates littering beaches across the Grand Strand.
According to Aquarist, Dakota Hughes, this is pretty normal.
"Most of the sea stars that have been washing up lately are Gray Sea Stars (Luidia clathrata). These are an intertidal species, meaning that they live the majority of their lives between the high and low tide lines. They actually sift the sand around them and use it to bury themselves so they end up getting uncovered as the tides fall quicker than they can move. We see them more this time of year because there are more living organisms in the intertidal zone for them to feed on. As winter comes, they tend to head back out closer to the shelf."
According to Hughes, this type of sea star uses their benthic invertebrate to feed and bury themselves in the sand.
"They use these same spines to feed by moving small particles of detritus and plankton to their mouth in the center of all 5 rays. Despite feeding on detritus and plankton, the Gray Sea Star can also act as a predator feeding on small crustaceans and mollusks, like the coquina clam, the small clams that quickly bury themselves as they are revealed by the crashing waves."
He said he has lived and worked on the Grand Strand for five years and has never seen hundreds of Gray Sea Stars as large as the one's being seen now.
Heather Hyde came across dozens while looking for shark teeth in Garden City. She picked a handful up to take a picture before returning them to the shore.
"It was very cool," Hyde said. "They tickled, they were sweet. I mean they were cute."
She's lived in Horry County for nine years and said she's never seen anything like it. Hyde claims it was a much-needed experience.
"Everything's been so negative lately," she said. "Just seeing that took you away from it, it was like an escape. It was innocent too. You know, all the shootings, everything that's happened, it was just innocent seeing these creatures that don't hurt anybody."
Last month, Portuguese men o' war washed ashore beaches across the South Carolina coast.
Even after beaching themselves, the tentacles are still capable of stinging for some time after the animal has died.
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