In a briny episode of the KQED series Deep Look, narrator Laura Klivans explains how starfish are able to function without a brain. Instead, starfish have thousands of ampulae that are connected to tubefeet. These thousands of tubefeet allow the starfish to sniff out and capture prey. They also allow the starfish to “gallop” in an incredibly unique manner.
Whichever arm pulls the hardest takes the lead. As the sea star builds speed it takes on an adorable little bounce. It’s the sea star’s version of a gallop. Instead of just dragging themselves along, the tube feet stiffen, lifting the star up mid-stride and then vaulting forward. No one tube foot is setting the pace. When you’re all connected to the same starfish it’s just easier to move when your neighbor moves. … It’s called an emergent pattern. Order from chaos. No brain required.
Here’s a timelapse of an entire colony of starfish galloping across the ocean floor.