Pictured are two plates from d'Orbigny’s Mollusques, echinodermes, foraminiferes et polypiers 1839.
Starfish are highly successful echinoderms belonging to the large Class Asteroidea. About sixteen hundred species live in the world’s oceans, where they can be found from the intertidal zone to the ocean abyss, even thriving under the Arctic ice.
Most starfish are voracious predators and can eat a wide range of foods including bivalve mollusks, which they encircle in their arms and grasp with their tube feet. Holding, fast, the starfish slowly pries open the mollusk by tiring out its adductor muscle, which the mollusk uses to keep its shell shut tight. Once the shell is open a little way, the starfish is able to extrude its stomach into the opening and digest the mollusk’s soft tissue.
See these and many other marine illustrations in Opulent Oceans, now on view at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.