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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Brittle Stars Move Like Humans

•, Wynne Parry
 A new analysis delves into the details of brittle star locomotion.

Symmetry is at the heart of the mystery of brittle star movement.

Humans, and many other animals, from insects to birds, have bodies divided into two matching halves, a right and a left. Scientists describe this as bilateral symmetry.

Other animals, including jellyfish and sea anemones, have bodies that can be divided into matching halves in multiple ways. This is called radial symmetry. Brittle stars fit into this category; their bodies can be divided into matching halves five different ways.
Symmetry influences how an animal moves about. Animals with bilateral symmetry, like humans, have bodies specialized to move in one direction — forward. Many animals with radial symmetry don't move or do so slowly. When they do travel, most of these animals do so in a direction determined by their body's central axis, defined by the location of their mouths. Think of a jellyfish moving up and down in the water column.

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