Fragile Star
Linckia columbiae

Physical Description

  • Five-armed seastar, with thin arms and small radial disc
  • Red and gray mottled coloration
  • The normal number of limbs is five, but can have anywhere from one to nine
  • Arms are often not symmetrical
  • Maximum size 4 inches

Range

  • Southern California to Peru
  • Ecuador (Galapagos Islands)
  • May also be present in Hawaii

Habitat

  • Rocky intertidal
  • Depth of 0 to 500 feet

Diet

  • Sea stars eat mollusks and detritus

Predators

  • Fragile sea stars are considered rather inedible, although sea stars can be eaten by seabirds, fish, crabs, otters, and even other sea stars! 

Interesting Facts

  • The fragile star is known to undergo autotomy, or self-amputation, where one arm detaches itself from the disc. That arm then regrows a new disc and new arms, a process that can take six months or more to complete. This is often why fragile stars look asymmetrical – they are in the process of regrowing their bodies! 

Sources: darwinfoundation.org; Reef Life Survey; Between Pacific Tides: Fifth Edition; National Aquarium; Benthic Invertebrates of Four Southern California Marine Habitats

Photo: Matthew Meier

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