Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: starfish phenomenon ( Answered,   3 Comments )
Subject: starfish phenomenon
Category: Science > Biology
Asked by: sandy1043-ga
List Price: $24.00
Posted: 12 Sep 2003 16:39 PDT
Expires: 12 Oct 2003 16:39 PDT
Question ID: 255253
During the 80's I saw a television documentary citing a starfish
phenomenon used for top secret communications undetectable to
eavesdroppimg by an enemy used in the south sea islands during world
war two. A starfish was cut in to two halves, after which the two
halves would regenerate into two separate complete starfish. When a
limb on one starfish was moved by a person the same limb would move on
the regenerated starfish regardless of the distance between them. Has
it ever been established as to the limits of this remaekable
communication phenomenon?  Friends and family thi8nk I must have
dreamed this. Would you provide me information to confirm or deny this
    Sincerely. Alex Morrison
Subject: Re: starfish phenomenon
Answered By: omniscientbeing-ga on 13 Sep 2003 12:16 PDT

As someone with a degree in marine biology and who has been to a lab
where sea-star (in science circles, they're called "sea-stars" rather
than "starfish", since they're not fish) regeneration investigations
were conducted, I can tell you authoritatively that the "phenomenon"
which you describe does not exist.

Perhaps the "documentary" you saw in the '80's was really some type of
sci-fi show, or maybe that "phenomenon" really was investigated
(knowledge of sea-star regeneration in WW II would be less than what
it is today, after all) before being subsequently dismissed.

Also, it's impossible to literally cut a sea-star in "half" (and
retain an equal number of whole arms on each bisected half) since they
have five arms (or multiples of five). This is known as "pentamerous
radial symmetry." It means that you could bisect a sea-star into two
sections, one of which would have 3 arms, the other of which would
have two.

What I will do at this point is to give you more detailed information
on the process of regeneration, so that you may learn more about it
yourself, and how it could not possibly facilitate the phenomenon of
which you write.

First of all, although a sea-star which loses an arm (also known as a
“ray”) or part of arm can regenerate that arm, it is not true that a
small part of an arm will regenerate an entire sea-star animal. A
portion of the central disk must be present to facilitate the
regeneration. Each ray has an extension of the body cavity and its
organs (which are quite simple, anatomically). So, if there is a
sufficient portion of the central disc attached to a single arm, that
arm could regenerate a whole new sea star, but it would take about one
year. At any rate, there is nothing in the standard, known and
documented biology and anatomy of sea-stars that would allow for a
regenerated arm to “communicate” with that arm’s former “half.”

Here is an excerpt from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, “Ask A Biologist”
page, titled “Regeneration of starfish”:

“Author: komogo3 Text: My science book states that a cut up starfish
can regrow into more starfish. I want more information. Can an arm
regenerate a whole new starfish? I have trouble believing this.
Response #: 1 of 1 Author: Jim Murray Text: Starfish, also known as
sea stars, (they are not fish) are capable of regenerating even one
arm into a whole new body. This is only possible if the arm includes
part of the central disc. If you cut off only the tip of an arm, that
tip will not regenerate, but the animal will grow another arm. I have
seen a single arm nearly 8 inches long with small 1/2 inch arms
growing off of it, it will eventually become a whole new sea star. If
you cut a sea star in quarters, right down the center, each piece will
grow into a whole new sea star. I do not know how many pieces one can
cut any one starfish into and still have each regenerate. As long as a
piece has part of the central disk, it should regenerate into a whole
organism. But if you cut a starfish in half, and then let it grow into
a whole one before cutting it in half again, one should be able to do
that indefinitely.”

Here is the link to the actual page on the WWW:

[ ]

Here’s a link to a general information page on sea stars (including
regeneration), Pisaster genus, from Haystack Habitat:

[ ]

The following excerpt from discusses the fact that in
some species, regeneration is a form of asexual reproduction:

“Starfish are well known for their powers of regeneration. A complete
new animal can grow from a small fragment such as a arm. In some
species one of the arms will virtually pull itself away, regenerates
and forms a new animal (asexual reproduction = autotomy): Linckia
multifora and Echinaster luzonicus. In others the body is broken into
unequal parts (= fission) then the missing limbs regenerate
(Allostichaster polyplax and Coscinasterias calamaria)”

 [ ]

The term you’re looking for would be something like “distance
communication between genetically distinct sea star rays” or something
to that effect.

A Google search for that phrase turns up nothing relevant:


There is nothing in the biology or anatomy of a sea-star (which is a
relatively simple animal in Phylum Echinodermata) which would suggest
powers such as those you have described. The phenomenon has never been
scientifically described or documented.

Another approach is to search the leading scientific journals, such as
Science [ ] is a good place to start, and
turned up nothing on my search for phenomenon as you describe.

The journal “Nature” is also another good place to look
[ ].

Looking through the following Google search results pages will lead
you to more information, none of which corroborates any communication
abilities between severed sea star rays originating from the same
central disc:

Google search strategy:
Keywords: “sea star ray regeneration”

“ray regeneration”:

“pisaster ray regeneration”:

“pisaster regeneration studies”:

“sea star severed ray communication”:

“science journals”:

“marine biology journals”:

“sea star regeneration experiments”:

Also, perform all of the above searches substituting the word
“starfish” for “sea-star.” Generally, the more scientifically oriented
results will be found searching for “sea-star” while less so will use
“starfish,” as with the results below [also you can subtitute the
above searches with the scientific name of any particular sea star
species, or geneus, such as "Pisaster"]:

“paranormal investigations starfish regeneration”:

“starfish mysterious powers”:

"WWII starfish experiments":
[ ://

Please don’t hesitate to ask for a Clarification to this Answer if
anything here is not clear to you, or if you would like a little more
information in any one particular area.

Good luck in continuing your inquiries!


Subject: Re: starfish phenomenon
From: pinkfreud-ga on 12 Sep 2003 21:03 PDT
Although the starfish's ability to regenerate limbs is discussed in
many places on the Internet, I have found no mention whatsoever of a
telepathic link between one half of a bisected starfish and its other
half. Surely if such remarkable proof of extrasensory communication
could be demonstrated, there would be a multitude of scientists and
paranormal investigators with a keen interest in the phenomenon.

I don't doubt that you saw something of this sort in a televised
documentary. Unfortunately, a great deal of pseudo-science,
speculation, and outright falsehoods are passed off as fact by some of
television's documentarians, who typically peddle the sensationalistic
aspects of stories for the sake of hyping the entertainment value of
the programming, and who often inflate myths into factoids.
Subject: Re: starfish phenomenon
From: knowledge_seeker-ga on 13 Sep 2003 07:19 PDT
Hi Alex,

I must say your question is intriguing. However, I must concur with
Pinkfreud's opinion, that what you saw was probably some sort of
sensational psuedoscience. Not only is there no record of it that I
can find, imagine the practical ramifications if it were true.

This would mean that every starfish that "emerged" from a previous
starfish would be merely a puppet of the first one. When the first one
raised its arm, the second one would be forced to raise its arm, which
then would cause any subsequent starfish that had formerly been part
of #2 to now raise its arm ... and so forth ad infinitem. You'd look
into the ocean and it would look like starfish performing a
synchronised swim routine.

Having swum amongst many a starfish, I can tell you, it doesn't look
like that. They're all down there doing their own thing.

Look at it from an evolutionary standpoint - Any starfish that is tied
to the behavior of the starfish that it generated from, would stand no
chance of survival. How would it eat if, every time it's progenitor
moved an arm, it had to move as well? So, even if one single starfish
was born with that ability, it would quickly die and would not pass
the gene for that behavior to another generation.

Remember, only traits that increase a creature's chance of
reproductive success survive. There is no magic in nature. Everything
is there for a reason. A trait that causes early death, as this one
surely would, could not be sustained in the population.

No, I think you can rest assured there is no secret extrasensory
communications going on between starfish halves.

But thanks for such a fun thought exercise!

Subject: Re: starfish phenomenon
From: hlabadie-ga on 13 Sep 2003 09:42 PDT
The closest thing in nature to this probably must be the phenomenon of
quantum entanglement. It is noticed in entwined photons, in which a
change to one photon causes an instantaneous parallel change in its
twin, however distant. This is the only known exception to the
limitation on Faster Than Light communication imposed by Einsteinian

Without knowing which documentary you saw, I can only speculate that
the starfish was used merely as a fanciful illustration of the
potential of quantum entanglement; but speculation cannot be
considered an answer.


Trillions Entwined
Clouds of Atoms Are Linked By A Weird Quantum Yoke

(Watch out for the pop-ups.)

"Schrödinger considered it the most profound feature of quantum
mechanics, and Einstein disbelievingly called it "spooky action at a
distance."  Entanglement, long just a controversial plaything for
theorists, is the weird phenomenon whereby the quantum states of two
or more objects become intrinsically entwined in a partnership that in
theory would remain unbroken across a distance of light-years.
Previously achieved with only a few particles at a time, this marvel
has now been demonstrated with two golfball-size clouds of cesium
containing trillions of atoms. Eugene S. Polzik and his co-workers at
the University of Århus in Denmark entangled the cesium clouds by
shooting laser pulses through them. The process will enable robust new
ways to teleport quantum states and store information in quantum
memories, an essential element  of the emerging technology of quantum

Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy