Facebook user Jr Saim posted a video at the end of September that showed a strange sea creature that was caught and subsequently released. The video, which obtained over 1.3 million views and 25,000 shares, shows a wriggly animal that kind of looks like a pile of dead leaves. Many curious commenters have been wondering what the heck it is. First, check out the video here:
This amazing creature is called a basket star. It belongs to the phylum echinoderm, which makes it related to other radially symmetrical marine animals like sea stars, sand dollars, sea urchins, and sea cucumbers. More specifically, basket stars are brittle stars, which are set apart from other sea stars by their comparatively thin, gangly arms. Basket stars typically live in the deep sea, as deep as 2000 meters (1.2 miles) below the surface.
While basket stars start out with five main arms connected to a central disc, smaller appendages grow over time in fractal patterns. Altogether, the diameter of their arms can reach up to 70 centimeters (27.5 inches). All of these arms help the basket star collect bits of food floating in the water.
Watching it eat is a fairly disturbing experience. Check out this video from the Seattle Aquarium, showing a basket star eating krill: