- 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
- Sexes look identical
- British Columbia to southern California
- Live in low and subtidal regions
- Mostly found in protected coastal areas
- Found on pier pilings, sand, and rocks
- They reproduce by broadcast spawning (releasing sperm and eggs into the water column)
- Spawning season is March-April
- Larvae start life bilaterally symmetric (meaning their is one line where they can be divided into a mirror image) and then settle into adult form as pentaradially symmetric (there are five lines where they can be divided into a mirror image)
- Barnacles, snails, mussels, limpets, ornate tubeworms, California piddock bivalve
- Sheep crab, sea gulls, sea otters
- 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; SIMoN
Photo: David R. Andrew