Hybridisation

How does this

and this

develop into this

?

Metamorphosis, you say?

Yes. But:

The larva of Luidia sarsi is a semi-transparent diaphanous sprite that feeds on algae and grows to a remarkable 4 centimetres.

Then something extraordinary happens.

Instead of changing shape to become an adult, a cluster of cells lining the larva’s internal cavity grows, like an alien invader, and out of these a starfish is born. Floating free from its other self, the adult form settles on the ocean floor, where it survives and grows by hunting down other starfish in the dark of night. Meanwhile, the larva continues its vegetarian existence, grazing the surface waters above.

From Frank Ryan’s article in the New Scientist, Metamorphosis: Evolution’s Freak Factory, via The Book of Barely Imagined Beings.

How could you not agree with Roger Caillois who suggests, in his essay The Natural Fantastic, that certain phenomena testify to “the existence of an underlying imaginary that is part of the real”?

See also this article on sea squirts as ‘real chimeras’ living in the oceans.

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