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Commonly Asked Questions

Appears in Georgia Aquarium's:
  • Cold Water Touch Pool (Cold Water Quest)
  • Rocky Reefs Habitat (Cold Water Quest)

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs along the coast of the Eastern Pacific from Alaska to Baja, California.
  • Found in intertidal communities on the Pacific Coast of the United States; also found in abundance.

Physical Characteristics

  • Measures 6-14 inches (15.2-35.6 cm) across. 
  • Color ranges between brown, yellow, purple, orange and red. 
  • Five stout arms, which are dotted with rough-feeling, small, white, blunt spines that form lined patterns. Spines are actually microscopic pinchers that remove any larva, algae or other growth that may settle on the sea star’s skin. 
  • Bottom of each arm covered with thousands of tiny tube feet tipped in suction cups. 
  • Mouth is on the underside of the body in the middle of the central disk.

Diet / Feeding

  • Diet consists of mussels, clams, snails, barnacles and sea urchins. Will consume dead animal and plant material.
  • Grips the outside shell of its prey with tube feet and slowly pulls it open. Then extrudes its stomach and lays the stomach on the soft tissue of the prey. Digestive juices from the stomach dissolve tissue and the stomach absorbs dissolved material.
  • Full digestion takes two to three days.

Reproduction / Growth

  • Goes through spawning process.
  • Larva attaches itself to the substrate as it settles.

Conservation Status

  • “Not Evaluated” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Common resident of tide pools on the United States West Coast. Easy to spot as it is large and colorful. 
  • Keystone species: as a predator plays a key role in structuring the intertidal ecosystem. When absent visible changes quickly occur, including shifts in numbers, types, and dominance of other species found there. 
  • Can regrow a lost arm. Regeneration can take up to a year, depending on food supply, water temperature and other factors.
  • Can be exposed to the air for up to 50 hours if remains in the shade or buried in moist algae. 
  • Small, light-sensitive spots at the tips of its arms help locate darkened areas where it can seek shelter. 
  • Also called “common Pacific sea star.”