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Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest

Sunflower sea star

Sunflower sea star

(Pycnopodia helianthoides)

The sunflower sea star occurs along the Pacific coast from Alaska to Southern California. It can be found in the intertidal zone and on sandy and gravel substrates and rocky bottoms to depths of 98 feet. This is the largest sea star, reaching about 39 inches in diameter and weighing around 11 lbs.

Younger sunflower sea stars begin life with five arms, while adults can have up to 24 arms. Individuals range in coloration from purple to red, pink, brown, orange and yellow. Most sea star species have a mesh-like skeleton that protects its internal organs, but restrict its mobility. The sunflower sea star's skeleton is comprised of a few unconnected pieces, allowing this species better mobility and enabling it to stretch its body to engulf larger prey.

Look for the sunflower sea star in the Cold Water Quest gallery.

Fun Facts

  • The sunflower sea star feeds on urchins, large clams, northern abalone, sea cucumbers and snails.
  • This species can move very quickly, up to 10 feet per minute, using its 15,000 tube feet.
  • It can live up to 8 years.
  • This sea star helps control sea urchin populations through predation.
  • Sunflower sea stars reproduce between March and July.
  • Download full fact sheet

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