Starfish have been described as the ‘Martians’ of the animal kingdom – creatures “whose very strangeness helps us to see ourselves more clearly by showing us what we are not” . It is this strangeness that makes starfish intriguing to children and adults alike… so it is the common starfish itself that should take most of the credit for winning in the Cryptic Zone.
Championing the common starfish was very much a team effort and I am grateful to PhD students and postdocs in my research group at Queen Mary University of London and to colleagues at the Natural History Museum (London), Oxford University Museum of Natural History, University College London, University of Mons and University of Fribourg for all their contributions.
I salute the champions of the other species in the Cryptic Zone … I know from my own experience how much time and effort you had to devote to this project. Your good humour and brilliant contributions to the chat sessions were just as entertaining and educational for me as they were for other participants. Most importantly, we were united by our shared enthusiasm for the study of all animal life on earth… not just the species we championed.
The opportunity to interact online with school pupils and members of the public to answer their many questions was outreach at its very best … we were really kept on our toes and I hope that we managed to answer most of the questions satisfactorily. Thank you to all the moderators at I’m a Scientist for organising the chat sessions and keeping everything running so smoothly.
Last by not least, a huge thank you to everyone who voted for the common starfish and for all the other species. We are very excited by opportunities that sequencing of the Asterias rubens genome by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute will bring to research on this species in the UK, in Europe and beyond. I hope that this genome project will inspire others to join us in the adventure that lies ahead.
 Dawkins, R. (2004) The Ancestor’s Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Life.
Thanks to the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute for funding 25 Genomes