A mesmerizing video captures the image of a Crinoid, also known as a feather star, in the ocean.
In James Cameron‘s Oscar-winning 1989 film The Abyss, he depicts the ocean floor as not being all that different from an alien world. If you watch the video below posted Wednesday on Twitter, you’re not going to have a difficult time imagining what Cameron meant. The mysterious ocean creature in the 20 second long video is a Crinoid, also known as a Feather star, even though the animal looks more akin to some kind of marine fern monster.
By Thanksgiving morning, the video had gone viral; attracting close to 90,000 likes and over 7600 retweets. Even with Twitter facing a somewhat chaotic and uncertain future, the captivating crinoid managed to get plenty of attention.
This is far from the first time a recorded video of a feather star has been released, but it’s still relatively rare to get images of the mysterious creature from the ocean. When National Geographic posted a similar video 6 years ago, the publication spoke to paleontology professor Tomasz K. Baumiller who likened the feather stars to “living fossils.” Baumiller said the crinoids “have a tremendous diversity that traces its roots deep down in the geological past.”
These mysterious invertebrates have been in the ocean for about 200 million years according to Baumiller. While they can be found all over the ocean, the professor says there’s a particularly “diverse” concentration of the feather stars in the western part of the Pacific, near Asia. The video the publication featured–with a feather star whose appendages had an almost zebra-like black-and-white striped pattern–was recorded in Thailand.
The mysterious crinoids are born with a stalk which eventually detaches from the ocean floor, allowing all of the feather stars capable of swimming–National Geographic says some are capable only of crawling along the sea bottom–to do so. They can have as few arms as five or as many as 200. The appendages also come in a wide variety of different colors.
The feather stars’ appendages offer some interesting defenses against predators. Just as lizards may shed their tails when another creature latches onto it, the crinoids can detach their appendages. National Geographic also says some of the feather stars are toxic if ingested.
At the same time, other ocean creatures sometimes utilize the mysterious feather stars as kind of an indirect food source. Smaller aquatic creatures, like snails, live on feather stars; attracting fish who will swim through the crinoids’ appendages to munch on the tiny beasts making their homes there.
Feather stars feed on plankton and dead organic matter they capture in their appendages. According to a 2020 Nerdist article, some of the ocean creatures light up in rainbow colors while feeding; which sure beats a dinner bell.