What happens when we lift a starfish out of water for an impromptu photo session?
All over the body of starfish are papules called dermal gills. Carbon dioxide gases are exchanged for oxygen between the coelomic liquid of the starfish and the water. Essentially, it’s how they breathe, like having hundreds of tiny noses all over your body.
As fresh air is toxic to starfish and they can’t hold their breath for very long, each time they’re lifted out of the water for a photo op, they are drowning and suffering from a build up of carbon dioxide. It’s the equivalent of someone filling your lungs with water for a little while and then emptying them again. It’s not a good day out. When this is done repeatedly, it’s a flip of the coin as to whether the poor creature can die from drowning or the stress of being semi-drowned so many times.
Wildlife are not our playthings. Just because a creature is slow enough to be caught by human hands, that doesn’t give us the right to do so, and the social media attention gained certainly does not justify the harm caused to the critter.
This is an act we’re all guilty of at some point. What was happening to that animal in the moment didn’t cross our minds. But now we know better, so we must do better.
Shared from Caluya Municipal Tourism Office