By Gege Li
Photographer Tony Wu
THE starfish in this image looks suitably electrifying, but the lightning-like currents emanating from this male Leach’s sea star are actually streams of sperm. The shot was taken in Kagoshima prefecture in Japan by nature photographer Tony Wu.
Starfish sexually reproduce by a process called spawning, with many individuals releasing great quantities of eggs or sperm into the water from their sexual organs, located in their arms. Congregating in groups boosts the chance of the eggs being fertilised, whereupon they will develop into planktonic larvae that are carried by the currents.
This sea star is spawning in synchronisation with others nearby, as dictated by the time and flow of the tide, but that isn’t its only reproductive tactic. Just like other starfish, Leach’s sea stars (Leiaster leachi) can also asexually reproduce if their arms become detached or damaged. As long as part of their core – the central disc – is intact, they can restore the lost arm or regenerate their entire body from the arm.
Leach’s sea stars are found on rocky shores and corals, spanning the seas of east Africa to South-East Asia, Japan, Australia and Hawaii.
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