Starfishs or seastars have sexes( they are either male or female) but they can reproduce both sexually and asexually. The latter is possible using fission or fragmentation.

In this planet there is a race of sentient starfish that has similar intelligence level as humanss and they are bipedal which means that they can walk, talk, feet and have a face but use the same methods of reproduction as real life starfish. They can use budding, fission or fragmentation for assexual reproduction and sexual reproduction as well. They live on land like humans do but they can live in water in the same way as crabs do.

Both males and females can reproduce asexually or sexually but since they have intelligence and therefore ethical values would they opt for asexual reproduction if they could mate with a seastar of the opposite sex? Would they think it is selfish to reproduce asexually even if it is easier and less costly than sexual reproduction? Would they think that people need to hae two parents and not only one?

Most people think that children need two parents for a good mental and psychological development but humans cannot reproduce asexually.

Note: I imagined this race of bipedal seastars based on a speculative evolution video that I watched on YouTube.

  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Ethics is a matter of opinion, it's not carved in stone. As such, I think you are just asking for opinions. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 16:40
  • $\begingroup$ Starfish tells me a dsitributed intelligence instead of a more complex and more central nervous system... they might not even care about their children. $\endgroup$
    – Rubrikon
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 17:10
  • $\begingroup$ First thing that comes to mind.. Fission sounds painful. Not sure how laying 2-3 million eggs would feel but but losing an appendage doesn't sound fun. $\endgroup$
    – Gillgamesh
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 18:33
  • $\begingroup$ Ethics is not necessarily a matter of opinion, especially in a fictional (i.e. fully artificially constructed) world. However, it is not possible to answer your question because you do not provide any information about the ethical system itself. It also seems that you are anthropomorphizing starfish, which might be fine if you do it intentionally, however, if you are looking for realism there is no reason to assume that intelligent starfish will think and develop values similar to us humans. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Commented Nov 16, 2021 at 19:34

4 Answers 4


The choice is between more of yourself, or a roll of the dice to get something better.

This is how such organisms do reproduction now. If you are well suited for your current environment and that environment is not at carrying capacity, asexually crank out more of yourself as fast as you can.

If you are not ideally suited for your environment because it has changed or is full of copies of yourself or maybe you never were in the first place, maybe your offspring can do better. Mix it up with meiosis, sex and a partner and see what you get.

So too your creatures. If my business or farm is booming and I could use more of me to help, I choose asexual reproduction. I know I can do it and so more of me can too. If times are tough and I am struggling, or if there are new worlds to conquer, offspring different from me might be better than me. This is the rational piece.

As regards ethics that has to do with worldview on the big and small levels. There might be some organisms who are humble, and feel that ethics mandate they always use sex to try to improve on their own phenotype for the next generation. There are some organisms who are proud, and feel that ethics mandate they let their offspring be as awesome as they are themselves; these individuals always use asex.


Asexual reproduction is more ethical

. . . according to modern (human) morality at least.

The asexual reproduction produces only a single offspring. On the other hand sexual reproduction produces millions of eggs that develop into larvae. In the wild most of these are eaten by filter feeders and only a few become adults.

If the parents are the dominant species they can just keep their eggs in a tank. That means they have to be the ones to kill most of their children and choose who survives. This is morally questionable.

Asexual reproduction has no such moral problems. You just tear off a leg and then wait for it to grow into a new person.

Of course I wouldn't expect sentient starfish ethics to be in any way similar to human ethics. So concerns like "Most people think that children need two parents for a good mental and psychological development" might simply not apply here. Remember of course that starfish grow up without any parental care.

The starfish people will have no moral concern with sexual reproduction if (a) they have no emotional attachment to their eggs or children and (b) lay their eggs in the sea rather than in a tank.

In that case I'd expect sexual reproduction to be the more common, simply because it is more enjoyable for the parents. Everyone sprays their cloud of babys into the ocean and forgets about them. Most are eaten and the few that reach adulthood emerge from the sea as new members of society with no knowledge of who their parents are.


Genetics say asexual reproduction is less favorable

Ethics stems from culture, culture stems from traditions, traditions stem from what ideas or actions were beneficial to survival in the past - or even presapient (instincts) - time.

And those determined by the biology of the species.

Parthenogenesis has a lot of common in terms of drawbacks with ye olde incest - a population that multiplies primarily through basically regurgitating the same set of genes is extra-vulnerable and can die out due to sudden environmental changes (Or just some plague chiming in and finding no members that are naturally resistant, like what happened to the Gros Michel banana, despite all the effort from humans to stop its disease from spreading), or "just" have a higher percentage of abnormalities and genetic diseases in the population.

Though it is probably not as severe, considering that it wasn't weeded out of the ancestors of your species by the evolution yet, so perhaps there are some merits to it that help keep the ability to multiply asexually from vanishing (Maybe the species evolved on a world that is hostile enough that members were relatively frequently forced to repopulate their region from a handful of survivors of whatever calamity struck them this time?)

In either case, I'd say that your species would probably view asexual reproduction as a "bad" thing to do. Maybe not straight out immoral, like incest, but enough so that in a situation where you could have a partner but chose mitosis - you'd be viewed as a kind of an asshole.


Class Divisions and National Interests

The ruling class may decide on asexual reproduction as a way to 100% ensure their heir inherits their land/property/titles. To help enforce a bond towards the ruler they may decree sexual reproduction (in starfish generally a "spray and pray" with no chance of IDing who sired who) as mandatory for the lower classes. Destroy the "family" ties and that's one less loyalty for beings to choose over their ruler. Conversely a ruling male/female might have a restricted spawning where they're the only member of their gender participating, creating a mass of heirs/workers bound by blood. They might decree their subjects only reproduce Asexually so as to ensure the ruling family always outnumbers the "lesser" individuals.

Scarcity of resources they may also steer towards asexual/sexual reproduction. In times of war/high likelihood of war or abundant harvests they may tend towards sexual reproduction. In wartime because it creates more bodies (hundreds per couple instead of 1-2 per individual in a given timeframe). In abundant harvests because they have the resources to raise more children, and historically higher population means more success as a nation/tribe/state. Plus in times of abundance asexual reproduction may be seen as a way to "horde" wealth among individuals/families rather than increase the society as a whole, and therefor be looked down on.

In times of famine or other resource-lean periods asexual reproduction might be favored as a way to keep the general population level steady/lower. Sexual reproduction would be frowned upon ethically because it simply creates hundreds/millions more lives that would essentially be doomed to starvation/whatever, and might bring the whole society down with them.

Then there's the whole religious aspect of starfish people to consider. Are asexual-derived "families" thought of as more blessed, because they know their parents/children? Or are mass-spawned sexual births considered superior because they are essentially the children of the entire community? I could easily envision a world where the various nations/religions of starfish people tend towards one or the other as "morally superior" based on historical outcomes from their past. Maybe on continent A they ascribe to good times sex/bad times asex. Continent B is sex is superior, while on C asex is superior. I very much doubt the entire species would have a universal preference for one or the other in all circumstances. After all, their own biology has both for a reason!


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