Nature Blog Network

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Quote of the Day!

"It is more proper to call starfish “sea stars”. Not only do they not live in the sky with stars but they aren’t fish. They are echinoderms. So from now on you can call them sea stars and avoid a lot of confusion."
- Joel from the Oceanographic Research Vessel Alguita blog

Hey guys, keep up the good work on our high seas!


  1. I had "sea stars" bludgeoned into my brain my my undergrad advisor. And I'm thankful. So, now I am in the process of bludgeoning it into my children's brains - there'll be no 'starfish' in this house!

  2. My son already says sea star. Its all he's ever known lol.

  3. After our comment discussion recently about whether terms such as "jellyfish" or "starfish" are misleading or not, I did a quick informal survey last weekend - well, okay, I asked my partner (age 24), his sister (14) and stepsister (12), but they've all got about as much interest in biology as an ayatollah has in Anglican tea parties, so I don't think they're too unrepresentative of the general uninformed public. My question to them of whether jellyfish were a type of fish was immediately met with a reply of no, and why was I asking such a stoopid question in the first place?

  4. As a person who knows little to nothing about starfish (

    my take on it is this:
    The term "sea star" is generally used in educational outreach as a more conservative means of avoiding confusion among those who have not had background or training in biology or zoology (i.e., those who might not know that starfish are not fish). The most accurate term for these animals is "asteroid" as derived from the Class Asteroidea (the scientific name for the class). However, in the professional vernacular "starfish" remains one of the most popular and most useful terms for a variety of reasons:

    1. Starfish is an older term than "sea star" and as such is considered to have priority usage.

    2. Within professional terminology, the term "sea star" is actually misleading because most starfish are far more diverse the basic star-shape associated with educational programs. Starfish can be pentagonal-shaped, octopus-like with up to 50 arms, flattened like a goose foot or even completely ball-shaped!

    3. From a semantic point of view, while it is true starfish are not "fish", neither are sea stars burning balls of interstellar hydrogen.

    In fact, the term starfish is actually quite widespread among the scientific community. In 1992 a major 500 page monograph written by Ailsa Clark (British Museum) and Maureen Downey (Smithsonian), the grand dames of starfish classification entitled their work "Starfishes of the Atlantic". "Starfish" continues to be a more heavily "hit" term on search engines such as Google and the research index Zoological Record.

  5. We'll have to rename the "mango" too, in case those unfamiliar with botany confuse this tropical fruit with a male human being.


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