I’m just gonna cut right to the chase here: There’s a thicc starfish and you just gotta see it. It went viral over the weekend after Twitter user @Babyshoujo “Saw a thicc ass starfish” at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, hehehehe, and I would not blame you. Maybe you’re also thinking, That indubitably looks like Patrick, the robust sea star from the television program Spongebob Squarepants. You’re not alone.
This is not the first thicc starfish sighting. A quick Google query for the phrase “thicc starfish” turned up this six-month-old Reddit post on a forum dedicated to absolute units.
I had to know more, so I emailed Dr. Christopher Mah, a marine biologist at the National Museum of Natural History who specializes in sea stars and runs the Echinoblog. Where you see a starfish with a booty that just won’t quit, Mah sees an important component of the marine ecosystem. He identified the specimen as a member of the common Pacific species, Mediaster aequalis.
Mah replied that viewers likely “interpreted the swollen regions on the disk and arms as the buttocks.” However, “sea stars don’t have the anatomical equivalent of buttocks. So, from a factual anatomical perspective, I don’t see it that way. The anus is located centrally on the disk. Five arms project away on the disk. There’s no structures on sea stars that have direct parallel with vertebrates that would be analogous with a butt.”
“It’s not unusual to see the public ‘relate’ to animals as closely as they can,” Mah wrote. “But it tells me that we have much farther to go with regards to education of the public of basic zoology.”
“Climate change was implicated in the recent sea star disease event on the West Coast of the United States which killed off a huge number of individuals,” he added. “If sea stars aren’t doing well, the oceans aren’t doing well. That’s bad news for humans.”
Update: This piece originally misidentified the species of starfish. It ha been updated with the correct identification.