Linkia Lump Study

This study was based on a problem I found on the arm of my Blue Linkia Starfish.  It was given to me a week ago, from one of my coworkers.  His tank was not intended to be a reef tank, but as he was setting things up, it started to lead in that direction.  His wanting to change things in his tank now, led him to part with a few of his "reef safe" fish and invertebrates.  Upon hearing that he needed a home for his blue linkia star, I got really excited, and offered right away to take it off his hands.  When I arrived home with it last week, and started the acclimation process in my tank, I noticed a large lump on one of it's arms.  I was concerned, of course, so I took him out of his bag for a few moments, turned him over and around, looking at the lump on his arm.  At the time there appeared to be no sore or opening of any kind, so I was baffled.  After consulting with LuAnn at work the next night, I again took it out of the tank to inspect the lump further.  This time I found something.  It appeared to be a "hole", but it didn't look infected or irritated in any way.  The edges of it were clean and "sealed", with no apparent sores or sign of infection.  In the center of this lump was something white that stuck out just a little bit, and it looked like it was possibly something folded or worm like inside.  This white "tissue" seemed to fill the hole completely, but it also appeared to move at times.  Sometimes it seemed to retreat into the hole.  As I watched over the next 48 hrs, the lump appeared to be growing in size.  My concern grew along with it.  I took pictures of it, posted them on my website and then to Rich's message board, in hopes of someone recognizing the problem.  I then printed some of the pictures and took them to work.  I consulted Rob, and he had no idea what it could be.  I emailed pictures to LuAnn, and we sat and boggled over the problem for the longest time, both of us feeling strongly that it was some sort of "creature" buried in there.  I showed the pictures to Joe, my boss....and he also was baffled.  It's then that I decided to bring the starfish back to work on my day off, and asked Rob and Joe if they would help me.  Both happily agreed.  Below is the result of what we found.  Rob was there, and took a close look at it, then went to get his surgical tools.  He probed it, and discovered it was a snail, burrowed inside of the arm of my starfish.  Naturally it was going to need extracting, which meant making a big decision on the spot.  Do we slice the lump, attempt to extract the snail, or do we amputate the arm?  The pros and cons were discussed at length, as Rob explained to me the risk of infection with an incision, and also the chance that there was an egg sac somewhere in that lump.  Knowing that starfish can regrow arms, we decided to amputate.  After Rob amputated the arm, just past the lump, he soaked the open end of the starfish in an antiseptic for a few minutes, and then put him back in his bag for his trip home.  I saved the end of the arm, and came home to do a disection/extraction here, where I could record my findings.  The pictures are detailed, and explained as it goes along.  Due to the detail in these pictures, I am making each one clickable.  Be sure to check out each large version of each picture, the detail is incredible.  This is the perfect chance to see something unusual and exciting!  Enjoy!!! 





In picture #1 you can see the lump and the opening from the under side.






In #2 from the top view






In #3 the side view from the amputated side, showing the contents of the arm's interior