Imagine a 100-foot-long sea flower that can detach itself from its stalk and crawl away. No, it's not a special-effect created for the latest Hollywood sci-fi adventure. This is just your everyday Earth-dwelling crinoid. These ancient ocean creatures resemble beautiful underwater sea lillies in full bloom. But be careful - they're not really flowers. They just look that way as a clever disguise.
What are crinoids? They look like aliens to the untrained human eye. They’re brainless animals that learned how to swim. They’re stomachless life forms that eat constantly, and they grow arms out of their sides five at a time. And they essentially tie everything on Earth together. Mass evolutionary events, dinosaurs, and even church traditions all share connections to these underwater sea creatures.
These amazing facts about crinoids will make you wonder if they were beamed down (or maybe beamed up) into the depths of Earth’s oceans from some other planet entirely.
Ocean creatures are amazingly deceptive - what you see isn’t always what you get when you enter the deep. Crinoids might not change their shape, color, and texture like other mesmerizing sea creatures do, but their natural physique is still a camouflage of sorts. They were built to look like flowers, but are actually animals. Their closest relatives are urchins and starfish.
Crinoid fossils are some of the most ancient finds known to mankind, with some remains dating back as far as 340 million years or more. Their fossils are currently regarded as the most antiquated linked to a specific type of animal. Present day crinoids are classified as living fossils, too.
The two most recognizable crinoid forms are the feather star and the sea lily. Sea lilies have a flower-like appearance, complete with a stalk attached to the ocean floor. Feather stars look more like spinning, feather covered octopi.
Evolution has armed the feather star with some pretty nifty traits like toxicity and the ability to swim. Not all feather stars are toxic, but the ones that are can protect themselves from predatory fish.
When you picture a fish that looks like a flower, you might imagine a daisy. But you have to think bigger - much bigger. Each arm on a crinoid can grow to be about a foot long, and the longest fossilized crinoid on record was 130 feet tall. To put things into perspective, the giant squid maxes out at 43 feet. Other crinoids, however, can measure just centimeters long.