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Starfish vs. Sea Stars

I have an obsessive personality. There is no discernable pattern to my obsessions and, this week, I found myself obsessed with a post I read on one of the preschool TV network's Facebook pages about Starfish and one parent's claim that Starfish do not actually exist.
May 14, 2013

I have an obsessive personality.  As a child, I was obsessed with rug-hooking.  Then magic tricks.  Then tennis.  Then poetry.  Then fire eating.  There is no discernable pattern to my obsessions and, this week, I found myself obsessed with a post I read on one of the preschool TV network’s Facebook pages about Starfish and one parent’s claim that Starfish do not actually exist.

Only three shows?  I must have written about Starfish in dozens of episodes.  Starfish are every writer’s “go-to” supporting cast members for any under-the-sea preschool adventure.  They are cute, geometric and, unlike garden-variety tropical fish, their eyes and mouth are conveniently located on the same side of their head.

Though I should probably have better things to do on a Monday night, this evening I find myself worrying that–despite having my pithy Starfish scripts blessed by Teachers’ College graduates who were paid a high hourly wage just to catch these sorts of “nit picky” factual things–I may have been inadvertently lying to preschoolers about Starfish for over two decades.  As I recall, a Starfish on Wonder Pets even attended preschool, overcame his separation anxiety, and then befriended a young squid.  Should I now be wondering if squids are really squids?

Well, I am very good at Google–which kicks Bing’s ass by the way–and I have uncovered many interesting facts about these sweet creatures that you and I (and everyone else in the preschool TV industry) know and love as “Starfish.”

1.  Starfish have no gills so they are not really fish.  Now, on its surface this factoid might appear to support Rachel P.’s argument that “Starfish” are really “Sea Stars,” but I don’t think it does.  After all, “Hot Dogs” are not dogs and “Chicken Fingers” are not fingers but nobody is disputing the names of these yummy junk foods.

2.  Some Starfish have as many as 40 arms.  Impressive, but not related to the naming convention currently in question.

3.  Starfish do not have blood, they pump salt water.  I know a few kids’ TV network execs who share this trait.

4.  Starfish do not have excretory organs, they are the only living creature that excretes through its arms.  In other words, if you meet a Starfish, you are advised not to shake its hands unless they have been thoroughly washed.

But the most important fact I learned pertains directly to the name “Starfish,” and whether it–or “Sea Star”–is the correct name for the pointy sea creatures that I adore.

5.  Both are colloquial names for the animal and neither are incorrect as a name for the animals.  The correct name for them is Asteroidea.  Eureka!  Thank you, Yahoo Answers!  For you skeptics out there, screen grab is below:

Now, I will confess that this answer may have some flaws.  If you read the fine print which, in this case, is actually larger than the un-fine print, you will see that only two people voted for this answer on Yahoo! but these two votes were apparently statistically significant enough to make it the “Best Answer.”  Now, I’m not a math person, but 67% sounds pretty good to me and I’m not about to quibble over Yahoo’s algorithms.  Lastly, I don’t think it’s particularly important that this answer was posted six years ago by a guy who chose to use a cartoon avatar for a face.

And so, after a long Monday evening of playing marine biologist on the internet, I have satisfied all of my own doubts and I will, with a clear conscience, continue to include Starfish–not Sea Stars–in my preschool scripts.

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