I hope that SEA STARS of the PACIFIC NORTHWEST will give you a new appreciation for these fascinating and very successful marine invertebrates. Their variety, abundance and range of habitats throughout the Pacific Northwest are quite remarkable. Interestingly, sea star taxonomists (the scientists who study the classification and relationships of species) are still trying to sort out the status of some very closely related stars, especially in the genera Henricia and Leptasterias. There will undoubtedly be several new species described in the next few years. Early taxonomists had to rely on conventional microscopes and often never saw a live specimen of the sea star they examined. They described them based on the morphology of a dried skeleton originally collected in a trawl catch. Their modern counterparts have much more powerful tools at their command. Scanning Electron Microscopy can provide incredibly detailed images at magnifications 250 times greater than conventional light microscopy. Genome sequencing can reveal the essential genetic make-up of discrete species. Indeed, these technologies have spurred a renewed interest in taxonomy. Observant beach walkers and, especially, divers have the unique opportunity to witness seldom-seen behaviours and other unusual aspects of sea star lives. In recent years, sharp-eyed naturalists and camera-toting divers have added significant new discoveries regarding sea stars, greatly increasing our overall knowledge. If you have specific questions about PNW sea stars, please send them along. I'll try to come up with some answers or at least direct you to an expert who can. And I would be pleased if you would like to share your PNW sea star images. Contact me at pnwseastars(at)gmail(dot)com
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