Not those kind of Asteroids

Yesterday I helped the Assistant Curator of Zoology, Kate Sherburn with relocating various specimens. In the morning we collected a variety of jars (we needed 80 of various shapes and sizes, and 20 of the kind below.)


We also relocated the dry Echinoderm collection. The specimens had been housed in these wooden drawers for quite a while, and we moved them to steel cabinets.

But first of all, what is a “sea star”? The terms “sea star” and “star fish” actually refer to a few different families of animals within the phylum Echinodermata. The word “Echinoderm” comes from the Greek “echinoderma”, which means “spiny skin.” Echinoderms include sea stars, sea urchins, sand dollars, sea cucumbers and crinoids or “sea lilies.” The Echinoderms usually display a 5 point radial symmetry. This symmetry was not lost on biologist and artist, Ernst Haeckel (February 16, 1834 – August 9, 1919) who illustrated the image below:

We worked with two echinoderm classes: the Asteroidea, which are the “true” starfish, and the Ophiuroidea (brittle-stars). The Asteroidea, as you can probably tell from their namesake, mean “star-like in appearance.” Here are more photos of the specimens I took as we relocated them.

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4 responses to “Not those kind of Asteroids

  1. Wow the illustrations are beautiful. No one today illustrates like they did in the 1800s. Why is that? Doesn’t anyone teach scientific illustration? I’ve been reading your posts since Curatorial Trainee. Thanks for taking the time to share! I love the photos and behind-the-scenes information.

    • Hi Rhea!

      Wow, thanks! It’s great to know what I write is holding people’s attention!

      I completely agree with regards to science illustration. I think illustration can often give you a way of looking at things that photos just can’t mimic, even with today’s amazing digital cameras. There used to be several Scientific Illustration degree courses around the UK at various universities, but sadly they all appeared to have been pulled. 😦

  2. Seeing new entries is also a treat for me in The Netherlands; I admire the way that you can write about your passion; I love the details in photos and in the way you describe all these wonders of the world – and now you touched on my absolute favorites – the crinoids! I am not a painter, nor a writer, but I always get inspired by your blog and one day you will see something in felt (wool) that will be born thanks to your beautiful blog. Thank you so much for sharing, warmest regards, Maria

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