A group of researchers has discovered that oxytocin, a hormone that in humans is known as a “love hormone” because it is involved in human sexual reproduction, in starfish plays an important wall in nutrition.
Specifically, the researchers found that in the common European starfish, Asterias rubens, this hormone plays an important role in nutrition. Maurice Elphick, the lead author of the research and scientist at Queen Mary University in London, declares the following about this discovery: “Our study has provided important new evidence that oxytocin-type molecules are important and ancient regulators of feeding in animals. So oxytocin is much more than a ‘love hormone’, especially for animals like starfish that don’t fall in love!”
The discovery occurred when the researchers injected this hormone into the body of the starfish and noticed that it began to bend the limbs by adopting the classic posture it adopts during feeding. Furthermore, this hormone causes the stomach to move away from the mouth.
The stiff and humped posture is the one that the starfish adopt when they climb on the top of groups of mussels and oysters to feed themselves.
When they are ready to swallow the food, they expel their stomach from the mouth and through a crack enter the bivalve body from which they “suck” the soft tissues and digest them, like a sort of soup. After lunch, the starfish withdraws its stomach from the mouth.