When a starfish eats, first it latches it onto its food with its arms or tentacles. Its stomach actually comes out through the mouth of the starfish and then gloms onto the food like a hand in a sock puppet.
Scientists knew about the molecules that signaled the start of the process something called the neuropeptide. And they figure that a very similar kind of molecule would signal the starfish to bring its stomach back in.
Scientists tried out the second neuropeptide on ten common sea stars that they collected from the English coast. The candidate neuropeptide worked like a charm, it signaled to the starfish that the meal was over. And the stomach returned back home where it belonged.
This research adds to our understanding of how chemicals control all sorts of behavior. In addition, starfish can be pests, they damage valuable coral reefs and they eat shellfish that human want to keep for themselves.
So the hope is that knowing how to turn their eating on and off can lead to new ways to control them.