Thank My Lucky Stars!


“Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars.

The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars.

An "Indian Sea Star" balances on the tips of a hard coral

An “Indian Sea Star” balances on the tips of a hard coral

 

Those stars weren’t so big.  They were really so small,

You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.”  –Dr. Suess

Peppermint Sea Star

Peppermint Sea Star

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about stars lately, Sea stars that is. There are so many things we say about stars and almost none of them refer to the fabulous stars in the sea. We wish upon a star, we star gaze under the starry sky, we wish to become a rising star, movie star, rock star, all star, or super star. We might travel past the second star to the right and straight on till morning where we hope to stay in a 5 star hotel. We are entertained by movies called “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” and “Stardust.” We reach for the stars, watch falling stars, and sing “Twinkle, Twinkle little Star.” We may be star crossed lovers, or hope we have a guiding star. We even indulge our sweet tooth with Starbursts. But aside from Patrick Star, who could loosely be considered a television star, we rarely speak in terms of sea stars.

Blue Sea Star

Blue Sea Star

This Brittle Star was found "falling" through the water column

This Brittle Star was found “falling” through the water column

Amazingly enough, not all sea stars are have five legs or are even shaped like stars.  Take the Crinoid, or Feather Star, for example.  This echinoderm looks more like a plant than a sea star.  It’s foot looks like a shallow root system.

Bennett's Feather Star

Bennett’s Feather Star

This Feather Star shades the anemone fish's home from the sun.

This Feather Star shades the anemone fish’s home from the sun.

A crinoid or "feather star" curled up
A crinoid or “feather star” curled up

This interesting echinoderm is called a Basket Star.  During the day it’s limbs entangle themselves into a tight ball that resembles a birds nest.  It is found on sea fans and when darkness falls it crawls out to the end of the fan and opens up to sift the water for nutrients that are passing by.

The Basket Star opens up at night to feed, but in the daytime it stays curled up and looks something like a birds nest.

The Basket Star opens up at night to feed, but in the daytime it stays curled up and looks something like a birds nest.

 

Lately I have had California sea stars on my mind. Many of you probably don’t know that there is a devastating epidemic that is ravaging sea stars all along the western coast from Alaska to California. This disease has been termed “Sea Star Wasting Syndrome” and it causes the sea stars to appear to dissolve into a puddle of goo.  (Click Sea Star Wasting Syndrome to read more about it.)

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I have had several encounters with sea stars suffering from this disease and it is disturbing to imagine that the sea star population could be wiped out this year. There has been a major die-off before, caused by warmer water temperatures in 1983-84 and again in 1997-98. It is unclear what is causing Sea Star Wasting Syndrome and if it is related to warmer water temperatures.

A Healthy Sea Star

A Healthy Sea Star

 

The photograph below was taken on February 17, 2014 at Shaw’s Cove in Laguna Beach.  Although it doesn’t show in the photograph, this star shows signs of the disease and I observed several others on the same dive.  It is characterized by missing limbs with lesions around the site, and soft, dissolved or disintegrated star body.

This sea star is a victim of "Sea Star Wasting Syndrome."  It has lost a leg, and two other legs dangle lifelessly.  Although it isn't shown in this photograph, there are lesions around the right side of the star and the bottom right leg has begun to dissolve.

This sea star is a victim of “Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.” It has lost a leg, and two other legs dangle lifelessly. Although it isn’t shown in this photograph, there are lesions around the right side of the star and the bottom right leg has begun to dissolve.

 

Sadly, scientists don’t yet know what is causing this epidemic.  There may soon be far fewer sea stars to grace my dives in the future.  In any case, sea stars are a great subject to photograph, and of the two thousand species in the ocean, I have photographed only a few. But for those, I thank my lucky stars!

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Fun in the Sun


Sunshine.  Glorious sunshine!  I was browsing through some of my sunburst photos and decided it might be fun to find some quotes about the sun.  There were a lot of heartfelt, intellectual, sophisticated thoughts about sunshine.  Here are a few of my favorites:

A Day without sunshine is like, you know, night.”  –Steve Martin

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“Sunshine is a welcome thing.  It brings a lot of brightness.”  –Jimmie Davis

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“Some sunshine is good for the soul, but I always make sure I wear a big hat.” — Miranda Kerr

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“Two basic items necessary to sustain life are sunshine and coconut milk.” –Dustin Hoffman

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“Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, It’s not warm when she’s away, Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone, And she’s always gone too long, Anytime she goes away.” –Bill Withers

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“I know it is wet and the sun is not sunny, but we can have lots of good fun that is funny.” –Dr. Suess

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The sun,–the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man–burst upon the crowded city in clear and radiant glory. Through costly-coloured glass and paper-mended window, through cathedral dome and rotten crevice, it shed its equal ray.”  —Charles Dickens

Okay, I have to explain why I chose this quote:

It makes me think of the fabulous ocean life (“The sun, the bright sun, that brings back, not light alone, but new life, and hope, and freshness to man”)

and the costly camera equipment you need to capture it correctly (“through cathedral dome“)

and how all the good stuff always hides in crevices.

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“We must leave this terrifying place tomorrow and go searching for sunshine.” –F. Scott Fitzgerald

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“Sunshine is helpful for thinking.  It warms up the brain cells.”  –Shannon Wiersbitzky

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Well, I hope you enjoyed my “sunny” presentation.  “May the Sun be always at your back!”–Irish Saying

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or

May “sunshine, on [your] shoulders, make you happy”–John Denver