New England beaches are swarming with starfish this spring, and nobody’s sure why, the Boston Globe reports. The spike may be connected to shellfish population; it could be due to a drop in spider crabs, which prey on starfish; it could be tied to water temperature or wind patterns. Whatever the cause, the “vast carpets” of the animals are worrying some fishermen: The creatures eat shellfish.
Their unusual shape may wow children, but the way starfish eat “is totally disgusting,” says a shellfish growers’ advocate: They attach to shells and pull them open, then push their stomachs into the shell, expelling digestive fluids. They then eat their dissolved victims. But some are pleased by the surge: It may be a consequence of cleaner water resulting from anti-pollution efforts.