In a recent expedition near Antarctica, scientists have unveiled a new and extraordinary species that resembles both a haunting alien creature and a familiar fruit. Named the Antarctic strawberry feather star, this sea creature boasts 20 unique “arms,” some bumpy and some feathery, extending up to eight inches long.
The discovery was made by Greg Rouse, a marine biology professor at the University of California, San Diego, and his colleagues Emily McLaughlin and Nerid Wilson. They published their findings in Invertebrate Systematics.
At first glance, the creature doesn’t resemble a strawberry. However, a closer look at its body reveals a tiny nub at the center of its arms, mirroring the size and shape of the fruit. The circular bumps on the star’s body, where the smaller tentacle-like strings called cirri should be, were removed to show the attachment points, making it look like a strawberry.
The creature’s arms, which are longer and feathery-like, assist with its mobility. The formal name of this species is Promachocrinus fragarius, and it falls under the class of Crinoidea, including starfish, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers.
Originally, there was only one species under the Antarctic feather star group, but the team identified four new species during their research. The Antarctic strawberry feather star is particularly notable for its number of arms, as most feather stars have only 10.
The discovery led to the addition of eight species under the Antarctic feather star category, including the four new discoveries and previously discovered animals initially believed to be separate species.
The Antarctic strawberry feather star was found between 215 feet to about 3,840 feet below the surface. While finding new species is not uncommon, naming them requires significant work, Rouse noted, with his lab naming up to 10 to 15 species a year.