Scientists capture bizarre deep-sea 'ravioli' starfish on film

For the first time ever, scientists have recorded an elusive species of sea star feeding in its natural habitat, and the creature looks ... oddly delicious.

The goniasterid sea star, or Plinthaster dentatus, is sometimes referred to as a "cookie" or "ravioli" star for some pretty obvious reasons — the deep-sea creature looks a bit more like a pastry or filled pasta than it does a living specimen. 

Plinthaster dentatus in its natural habitat  (Photo: NOAA)

In a July 4 blog post, Chris Mah, a sea-star expert at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, explained the species' distinct look, writing that its "arms and disk are nearly confluent, thus presenting a more pentagonal shape relative to other sea stars."

Mah shared recently recorded footage of multiple goniasterid sea stars captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's ship Okeanos Explorer, which is currently operating in the Atlantic Ocean off the southeast coast of the United States.

"Even though we are in America's 'backyard,' the deep sea still has many new discoveries and surprises to unveil!" Mah wrote.

Although goniasterid sea stars have been recorded on multiple occasions, Mah says what makes NOAA's footage so significant is "the numerous feeding observations that have been made."

"Among the most important outcomes of these dives, aside from recognizing previously unknown species, are observations of known species in the process of performing their basic day-to-day biology, feeding, spawning, etc," he wrote. "This species' biology has been largely unknown despite the fact that the species has been known since 1884!"

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