red serpent star, Ophioderma squamosissimum (3)

photo: Kyley

red serpent star, Ophioderma squamosissimum (2)

photo: forddna

Habitat: Belize, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Caribbean Sea
Status: Not Listed

There’s something just a liiiittle unsettling to me about a blood-red serpent star. Especially one that’s known as a “tremendous scavenger.”

This is the Red Serpent Star (Ophioderma squamosissimum) which is highly prized in the aquarium trade for its vivid red coloring. They’re nocturnal creatures that spend the majority of their day hidden within rock crevices. They’ll send their long, red arms out to search around for prey while keeping their body tucked away. At night, they get a bit more adventurous and will leave the safety of their rock cave to head out in search of food, central body disk and all. They do a great job of controlling excess waste in your aquarium but might go after your fish if not properly fed.

Can’t you just imagine these long, wriggling arms reaching out and grabbing you, dragging you into the depths under the cloak of darkness…. I think it has something to with the ‘serpent’ portion of the Red Serpent Star’s name. The arms just take on a much creepier vibe. I picture them slithering around with very evil intentions… but of course, this is just me reading way into a beautiful red serpent star’s name. Aren’t we all guilty of that at one point or another? 😉

Edit: Just been informed by Jake of Reefbuilders.com about the bizarre feeding strategy these guys employ. At night, they will lift their oral disks up creating a pseudo-cave suspended by its arms. When an unsuspecting fish wanders underneath the serpent star trap, seeking what it thinks to be shelter, the star will quickly twist its body to trap the fish within, forming a cage with its arms. It will then quickly INHALE THE FISH WHOLE!

So, I guess my initial instincts on this guy were right – what a frightening, frightening creature!