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Starfish at Motukiekie Beach at low tide in New Zealand at sunset




Starfish colonies on the dangerous low tide coastline of Motukiekie Beach with sea stacks at sunset on New Zealand’s west coast


Starscape

Large starfish colonies populate the rock platform of Motukiekie Beach near Greymouth on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island.
The rugged and picturesque coastline offers unprecedented views of sea stacks and cliffs intersected by flat sandy beaches. These sea stacks are located below a 330 ft (100 m) vertical cliff. At high tide the waves reach up to the wind-crooked trees growing on top of the rock spires and crash upon the vertical cliff with impressive sounds. The tidal hub is about 11.5 ft (3.5 m) allowing access to this rocky platform only for a short time period during low tide that has to coincide with dusk and dawn to get the perfect low light conditions.
Even at low tide a few waves of the swell out at sea are high enough to completely flood the rock platform with water levels rising waist-deep. The channels between the rock platform almost fall dry in between the waves. Hence the long exposure allows capturing the sequence of a high wave resulting in a ghostly appearance of the water rushing through the channels and finally flooding the platform.
The area is inhabited by bright-orange starfish up to 14 inches (35 cm) in diameter, called Stichaster australis, which feed on the abundant horse mussels. It is remarkable that the rocks are of the same age as the class Asteroidea to which the starfish belongs. When the rock, called greywacke, was deposited as muddy sediment on a deep ocean seabed in the Ordovician age about 490 million years ago it was also the time when the first starfish evolved from a group of animals called Echinodermata to which also sea lilies and sea urchins belong. Though Stichaster australis is a modern form it truly belongs to the living fossils being successful inhabiting Earth since 490 million years.

April 2013
Canon 5D MkII, Canon EF-L 16-35 mm, f/16, 6 sec, ISO 100, Lee grey neutral density filter, tripod

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