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Several colors of starfish were around, correlating with the size of each specimen. Each had roughly the same pattern on their back. I disturbed only one - it's body was stiff, and it's back studded with rough points that fell short of being short.
These starfish dotted the otherwise plain white sand of many islands on the Caribbean side of Panama, usually within just a meter or two of shore. The waters are warm and calm; I was told by a local captain that they never have rough storms, so outside of tourists these starfish are relatively undisturbed by others.
Even on the boat I took passage on out of the San Blas, the debate raged over how long a starfish can survive outside of water - indeed, I can still find no reliable source online and the spread seems to be mere seconds to five days. Having witnessed starfish shuffled around by waves on the Oregon coast to the extent that they were not submerged for minutes at a time, I felt relatively confident that I could take up a starfish long enough for a picture. That the starfish was snacking was a welcome surprise, but my friend was no less quick to snap the picture and the starfish was quickly returned to its place on the seabed.