Giant Spined Sea Star
- 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 there 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 spined 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