What Does The Chocolate Chip Starfish Eat?

chocolate chip starfish

Chocolate Chip starfish is a sea star species with characteristic rows of black spines or “horns”. It lives in warm shallow waters in coral reefs or seagrass beds. If you wonder what Chocolate Chip starfish eats in its habitat, I’ll talk all about that in this blog post. However, let’s begin with a quick answer:

Chocolate Chip starfish eats a huge variety of food, including corals, sponges, detritus, mollusks, sea urchins, algae, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. Sometimes starfish prey on other tiny starfish.

However, this certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. Below I’ll explain more about what the Chocolate Chip starfish eats. Furthermore, I’ll explain how, how much, and when the starfish eats. Read on!

What does the Chocolate Chip starfish eat? (Explained)

Chocolate Chip starfish, like other starfish species, are scavengers which means they consume a huge variety of food that is available in their habitat, basically anything they find. They are carnivores and mostly eat slow-moving small animals nearby or animals that are injured and unable to move away. They also eat corals and plants.

Interestingly, starfish can prey on animals much larger than their mouths simply because of their ability to digest food outside of their bodies which I’ll talk about later. Let’s look at what Chocolate Chip Starfish eat in more detail.

what do chocolate chip starfish eat

Corals

Chocolate Chip starfish are corallivores which means they feed on coral polyps. Interestingly, corals are very often mistaken for being rocks or plants. Coral polyps are small invertebrates related to sea anemones and jellyfish. Another starfish that eats corals is a Crown-of-thorns starfish that you can read more about it here.

Sponges

Sponges are simple invertebrate animals with dense skeletons that live from the deep seas to the warm shallows. Just like corals, they don’t move, so starfish can eat them simply by walking on top of them.

Detritus

Detritus is dead particulate organic material that typically includes fragments of bodies of dead organisms and plants. Because starfish eat dead organic matter from the bottom of the ocean, they’re considered decomposers.

They carry out the decomposition process, which means they help to recycle nutrients back into the environment, and the cycle continues with other animals using the nutrients. Without them, the organic matter would pile up, and its nutrients would go to waste. What’s more, organisms at the beginning of the food chain wouldn’t complete the processes or survive, destroying the entire chain balance.

Mollusks

Mollusks are soft-bodied invertebrates, including snails, mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, and squid. Most mollusks prefer shallower waters of intertidal pools or coral reefs where Chocolate Chip sea stars live. They’re also slow-moving animals which makes them easy prey.

Interestingly, starfish eat mollusks with shells by first opening them. They can do that thanks to their tube feet located underneath their bodies.

Sea urchins

Surprisingly, sea urchins’ sharp spines are not a problem for some starfish, and the Chocolate Chip sea star also feeds on them. Sea urchins inhabit every depth zone and move very slowly, making them good prey for sea stars.

Algae

Algae is another organism that Chocolate Chip starfish eats. They can be found almost everywhere, making them an easy food source for many marine animals. What’s more, they’re especially important food for sea stars larvae.

Crustaceans and barnacles

Crustaceans are a diverse group of invertebrates, including crabs, shrimp, lobsters, krill, prawns, and more sessile creatures like barnacles. They live in every part of the ocean, and some even in freshwater. Barnacles mostly live in intertidal zones of rocky shorelines and sea stars play an important role as a “cleaning crew” by reducing their number.

Interestingly, starfish are classified as keystone species thanks to keeping the number of mussels and barnacles in check. If starfish were removed, the mussel population would expand rapidly, covering rocky intertidal shores and driving out other species. Here you can read more about it.

Other invertebrates

As I mentioned, Chocolate Chip starfish and other starfish species eat basically anything they find. They may feed on other invertebrates and even on other starfish.

How does the Chocolate Chip starfish eat?

Interestingly, starfish can prey on animals much larger than their mouths simply because of their ability to digest food outside of their bodies. How do they do that?

Chocolate Chip starfish eat by extending their stomach out of their mouths and wrapping it around their prey. Once they do that, they start digesting food directly and when they finished their dinner, they pull their stomach back into their bodies.

If the prey has a shell, such as mussels or oysters, they open it with their feet with suction cups and arms to hold the prey. They hold it on the oral side of their bodies, where their feet and mouth are located. Read more about it in my other post: “How Do Starfish Eat?”.

How much does the Chocolate Chip starfish eat?

It’s challenging to say the average amount of food Chocolate Chip starfish consumes. Some of them adapted to different environments such as seagrass beds or coral reefs so they may have very diverse diets. Other factors are food availability, starfish size, and the size of their prey because the time of digestion will be longer if the prey is large.

Some starfish can consume about 20 mussels a day but some can eat only one and feed on algae in the meantime.

When does the Chocolate Chip starfish eat?

Again, because there are many different factors, it’s difficult to say when Chocolate Chip starfish eat. Most of the time, starfish eat during the day and the night, sometimes being more active at night but sometimes during the day. It depends on food availability, conditions, season, and more.

Sources

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