Wednesday, February 24, 2010

bat star ~ 02/24/10 ~ Coast Guard Pier

bat star
Patiria miniata

It's always fun to see a brightly colored sea star.

Maybe it shows my age, but I still want to call it a starfish. I wrote my first term paper in the 5th grade on starfish, "Echinoderms: Eating Out." I liked the big fancy name echinoderm and, admittedly, largely copied my paper verbatim out of our home set of the World Book Encyclopedia - apologies, Mrs. Wilson!

A friend of mine, who volunteers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tells me Asteroidea are not fish and in order to avoid confusion for children, the MBA would prefer for the public to call them sea stars. I point out that they're not stars, either. The starfish/sea star argument has become a bit of a running joke between us.

Come on! Starfish is one word right? If one follows the protocol of common names that entomologists use, then it's obvious it's not a true fish. For example, a dragonfly (Odonata) is not a true fly, but a house fly (Diptera) is. Do you see the difference? I'm not sure where I picked up this tidbit of info, but here's how I understand it: when it's two words, then the last noun accurately describes the thing in question; when it's one word, then it is not the thing stated. Does this make sense? Here are other examples of one-word nots: butterfly (Lepidoptera, not Diptera), ladybug (Coleoptera, not Hemiptera), caddisfly (Trichoptera, not Diptera), sawfly (Hymenoptera, not Diptera), mealybug (Homoptera, not Hemiptera). I maintain starfish is a perfectly acceptable common name. Phew! I'm done with my rant for the day.

ps 11/02/10 - For a better written post on this same topic (not starfish), see Bug Girl's post.

pss 03/14/12 - For whatever reason it's validating to see other bloggers blog about this same issue. See Jim Johnson of Northwest Dragonflier for another better written explanation.


Marvin said...

When you get right down to it, a sea star isn't really a star either. It's simply star shaped, though the bat star in your photo does seem to be glowing.

And, I've never thought a seahorse was actually equine.

Susan said...

Well thanks for that - I never realized the protocol at work here, (and I'm a former school teacher too!) oops!

Nature ID said...

My point exactly, Marvin! I'm sure there are many more examples.

Susan, glad to hear something I write is informative.

Nature ID said...

Oh! Marvin, your moth pictures are amazing!