Nov 28 1974  Nechako Chronicle “Sense and Nonsense”

Recently I have heard some interesting stories about fish. The first thing I learned was a lot of them are not really fish at all. For instance the starfish is really an echinoderm and would be highly insulted if it knew that people referred to it as anything else. The starfish and his relatives are a unique bunch. They can do things that nobody else can do. Consequently, they are a bit snobbish and are not even on speaking terms with other “fish.”

A starfish never has to turn around no matter where he wants to go. He simply follows whichever arm is pointing that way. He travels about on tiny tube-like sucker feet. These little feet double as noses to sniff out food. The starfish’s favourite food is oysters – raw on the half-shell. When he captures an oyster, he anchors his little feet on either side of the oyster’s shell. He then starts pulling, sometimes for days, until the oyster finally opens up. Instead of eating the oyster in the normal way, the starfish will often decide to be different. He turns his stomach inside out and forces it out through one of his mouths. The stomach is placed on the poor oyster. He then sits back and watches his stomach digest the oyster before his very eyes (he has an eye on the tip of each arm). If it was me the sight of my stomach eating my food would ruin my appetite for the second course. For the starfish the second course is more oysters. So many in fact, that oyster fishermen used to capture these little competitors, cut them up and throw the pieces back in the ocean. The starfish had the last laugh though. Every piece of his mutilated body rejuvenated itself into a brand new starfish.

The sea cucumber is another member of the starfish family. He looks like a cucumber with a big mouth. When being chased by a predator the sea cucumber has a neat little trick. In fear, he will eject his own stomach and intestines and leave them to their fate on the ocean bottom. The enemy devours this tasty entree, while the main course escapes. The sea cucumber goes into hiding for a few days while growing a new set of digestive organs. Of course this cycle couldn’t possibly happen very often. The sea cucumber would be so busy growing new stomachs he wouldn’t have time to eat. I would hope that he would hang onto one set of innards long enough to utilize them for one good meal. There is such a thing as having too many guts for “ones own good.”

After that dreadful pun, I think I shall quietly steal away to the bedroom for a short nap. The rest of the family are having supper but I’m not very hungry. I never was that fond of fish anyway.


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