Our usual experience when looking at an animal is to see the creature and know, clearly, how its body is assigned and what each of its parts does — two legs for walking, two ears for hearing, a mouth for eating, gills for breathing, one brain for thinking.
In looking at a starfish, however, things get a little trickier.
Everything about the starfish is in multitudes that aren’t always obvious to our eye: five–50 arms, a mouth with five jaws, a eyespot on each arm with 80–100 ocelli, a decentralized respiratory and central nervous system, a three-ringed circulatory system, a common “mouth” used both in consuming and excreting, and tubed “feet” that assist with sensing, moving and breathing.
These marine invertebrates, including the Royal Starfish (Astropecten articulatus) that is found on the cover of this book, operate in the spirit of concurrency, having adapted so that the parts of their bodies have multiple functions — feet that help it move, feel, see and breathe, for example — for a simple but optimal life.
Because of their adaptability and optimization of function, seastars are considered ecologically important as they, like the operations in this book, help their environment to be cleaner and more efficient.
If you find yourself on the east coast of the continental Americas, especially the Caribbean, keep an eye out for a relatively small, impossibly purple seastar with brilliant orange edges.
Learn more about the Royal Starfish, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astropecten_articulatus.