Have you ever wondered about the starfish reproduction process or asked the question “do starfish lay eggs?” If so, you will be pleased to learn that they do, but the eggs are not fertilized at the point when they are laid, and there is quite a lot more to the reproductive process than just that.
Starfish are unusual creatures that spark a lot of interest among people, so we’re going to explore how a starfish’s reproductive cycle works and how these interesting animals make babies.
It might be impossible to imagine a starfish laying eggs, since these creatures seem to spend their entire lives clinging to rock faces and doing very little else, but starfish can actually be very active creatures and they live for up to 35 years – which gives them plenty of time to create baby starfish.
Both a male and a female starfish must be present in order to create fertile eggs, but they do not need to actually come into physical contact, as long as they are in the vicinity of each other. Instead, the female will release unfertilized eggs into the water, and the male will release sperm to fertilize them.
Let’s find out more about how starfish reproduce and what the eggs look like, as well as how starfish manage to reproduce. You should soon have a strong understanding of these peculiar creatures and the way in which the species is continued.
Do Starfish Lay Eggs?
Starfish do lay eggs, or more accurately, they release eggs into the water, rather than sticking them to a rock or the seafloor. The eggs drift off in the current and if they are fertilized, they will then hatch into baby starfish, which are only about one millimeter across.
These babies will drift around in the ocean currents, feeding on minute particles in the water, as they slowly gain size and strength.
Female starfish can release vast numbers of eggs, and in some cases will produce up to two million in a single spawning session – and given that they can live for 35 years, that’s a phenomenal production of eggs over the lifetime of a single starfish.
Of course, very few of these babies will survive beyond the egg stage, or the following juvenile stages, as they will quickly be eaten by large predators in the sea. Whales, for example, can hoover up millions of starfish babies and eggs in a single mouthful.
Many creatures that live in the sea depend upon this method of releasing eggs to the current, and almost all of the 2000 species of starfish use it as a means of spreading their offspring.
The babies will be completely independent of their parents once they have hatched, and will fend for themselves entirely throughout their lives. They become adults at around two years old.
How Do Starfish Reproduce?
The eggs of a female starfish are stored in a pouch at the base of one of the starfish’s arms, and will be released into the water, usually when other starfish have gathered nearby (sometimes known as spawning aggregations).
The proximity of other starfish increases the chances of the eggs being successfully fertilized once they have been released into the water, as it means males are likely to be nearby and capable of supplying sperm.
There is no need for physical contact between the male and female of the species, and this may be partly due to the fact that they have no brain, which could make seeking out mates challenging.
It is also possible for a starfish to reproduce asexually, meaning that it has no need of a sexual partner in order to create a new starfish. This is also known as cloning, and it involves the starfish dividing itself into two parts (sometimes more) and creating genetically identical but completely independent individuals.
A starfish only needs 1/5 of its central disk and one arm in order to regenerate its entire body, so starfish can create multiple copies of themselves in this way.
Some species of starfish reproduce with the embryos developing within the bodies of their parent, like a pregnancy, but this is much rarer. These individuals will stay with the parent until they have developed their five arms, and then they will leave and become independent.
How Many Babies Does A Starfish Have?
It is difficult to say how many babies a starfish will have because this varies a lot between species, and may also depend on the age, health, and environment of the individuals; some will produce significantly more babies than others.
On average, however, starfish will produce up to 2,000,000 eggs at a time, and will live for two or three decades, sometimes more. They usually breed in the winter or spring, but can breed at any time of the year, especially if the conditions are right.
Most individuals will produce eggs once per year or once every two years, so a single starfish could produce almost 60,000,000 eggs in its lifetime if it reached the age of 30 and produced eggs every year.
Many will not produce this many, although adult starfish have relatively few predators and do tend to live for at least ten or twenty years once they reach adulthood.
It isn’t possible to measure how many babies an individual starfish produces, because they release their eggs into the ocean and these are quickly washed away, but the above numbers should give you some indication.
Different species will of course produce different amounts, and have different lifespans.
The quick answer to “do starfish lay eggs?” is that they do lay eggs in great quantities, but they can also reproduce by cloning themselves and dividing their bodies to create new, identical copies. They generally produce babies by releasing their eggs into the water, where the sperm from male starfish can fertilize the eggs, and the current will carry them to new feeding grounds. A single starfish can produce millions of babies in its lifetime, although relatively few will survive to adulthood.