Regeneration is a real super power

Sand star with only four arms

Sand star with only four arms

Recently, I came across this sand star that only had four arms. What happened to its fifth arm? I wondered. Then I thought, it doesn’t matter because sea stars have the power to regenerate their limbs.

This got me thinking, humans are obsessed with super powers these days. The Marvel and DC Comics movies are all the rage, but here’s the thing…those super powers are fantasy. Meanwhile in the ocean, sea stars are growing back limbs without a second thought. In fact, some sea stars can regenerate an entire body from a piece of an arm! Now that’s what I call a super power!

Sea stars are also capable of autotomy, which is the ability to self-amputate a body part. This is a great trick sea stars use to protect themselves from predators. Say a nasty gull grabs a sea star’s arm with its beak, the sea star can use autotomy to release that limb. While the gull is distracted with the arm, the sea star escapes with its life and can grow the lost limb back later.

To be fair, humans can regenerate some tissue such as skin, and livers are capable of regrowing. But it’s just not as cool as regenerating an entire limb or body, right? If we’re keeping score when it comes to regeneration, here it is: sea stars = 1, humans = 0.

As modern medicine advances, this score could change, but we’ll always have to remember that sea stars had this super power all along and we didn’t.

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