Giant Spined Sea Star
Pisaster giganteus

Physical Description

  • Large five-pointed sea star
  • Red, brown, tan or purple coloring
  • Light blue circles around base of each white spine
  • 14-19 inches in diameter

Range

  • British Columbia to southern California

Habitat

  • Low and subtidal regions
  • Mostly in protected coastal areas
  • Pier pilings, sand, rocks

Diet

  • Barnacles, snails, mussels, limpets, ornate tubeworms, California piddock bivalve

Predators

  • Sheep crab, sea gulls, sea otters

Interesting Facts

  • They can detach a limb to escape a predator and can regrow that limb later. If they are cut in half, they can grow into two sea stars!!
  • Sea stars are considered keystone species, because if they are removed from an ecosystem, the entire ecosystem can end up out of balance, with certain species taking over and out-dominating other species. 
  • The giant sea star can be trained to associate a light stimulus with food! 

Sources: Wildcoast; Encyclopedia of Life; biology.fullerton.edu; UC Irvine Biology

Photo: David R. Andrew

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