Marine Life‎ > ‎California‎ > ‎Invertebrates‎ > ‎

Sea Stars

Bat Star

Asterina miniata

(1-4,7: San Carlos Beach, Monterey / 5,8: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 6: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos)

Bat stars are scavengers; here, they're eating dead sunfish:
(1-2: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

Usually five-armed, but can have up to nine arms.  I've seen stars with as few as 4 arms and as many as 8:
(1-3: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

This is a juvenile:
(1: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

This one has its stomach extended from its underside to feed:
(1: Lovers Point, Monterey)

Blood Star

Henricia leviuscula

(1-2,6-7: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 3: Ship Rock, Santa Catalina Island / 4: Arch Point, Santa Barbara Island / 5: Nudibranch City, Santa Cruz Island / 8: Monastery Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea)

Dwarf Mottled Star

Henricia pumila

(1-3,5-8: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 6: Lovers Point, Monterey)

Small; less than 2" across.  Here's a really tiny one with my 1/4" wide dive pointer:
(1: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos)

Fragile Star

Linckia columbiae

(1: Starlight, Santa Catalina Island / 2: Seal Cove, San Clemente Island / 3-6: Ship Rock, Santa Catalina Island / 7-8: Indian Rock, Santa Catalina Island)

This one is growing from an arm dropped by an adult star.  This is one of the ways some sea stars reproduce:
(1: Seal Cove, San Clemente Island)

Giant Spined Star

Pisaster giganteus

(1-2,7-8San Carlos Beach, Monterey / 3: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 4: Lovers Cove, Monterey / 5: Eel Point, San Clemente Island / 6: Nudibranch City, Santa Cruz Island)

These are juveniles:
(1-2: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 3-6: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

Their skin has a very interesting texture close up:
(1-2: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

This one is eating a leafy hornmouth snail:
(1: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

Leather Star

Dermasterias imbricata

(1: East Pescadero Pinnacle, Pebble Beach / 2: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 3,5-6: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 4: Lovers Point, Monterey / 7: San Carlos Beach, Monterey / 8: Monastery Beach, Carmel-by-the-Sea)

This one has an extra arm.  As with most other sea stars, leather stars sometimes get ambitious and grow extra legs.  Many sea stars can reproduce by dropping an arm, and they can regrow arms if injured:
(1: Monterey State Beach, Monterey)

These are juveniles:

(1-3: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 4-5: Monastery Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Ochre Star

Pisaster ochraceus

(1-4,6-7: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 5: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 8: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

This one is growing a new arm:
(1: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos)

Rainbow Star

Orthasterias koehleri

(1-6,8: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 7: Monastery Beach, Carmel-By-The-Sea)

Red Sea Star

Mediaster aequalis

(1-7: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos)

Short-Spined Sea Star

Pisaster brevispinus

(1-3,6: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 4: McAbee Beach, Monterey / 5: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

(1: Monterey State Beach, Monterey)

Six-Arm Star

Leptasterias hexactis

(1-2,4-5,7-8: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos / 3: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 6: Coral Street, Monterey)

Spiny Sand Star

Astropecten armatus

(1-8: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

These bury themselves under the sand during the day.  Even at night, in bright light they'll hide over the course of a minute or two:
(1-3: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)

Sunflower Star

Pycnopodia helianthoides

(1-4: San Carlos Beach, Monterey / 5: Stillwater Cove, Monterey)

These vary in color from orange to purple to white.  They can get enormous - up to three feet across.  In 2013, a wasting disease killed all the big ones.  From fall through winter, all I saw were little ones like these:
(1-3,5: San Carlos Beach, Monterey / 4: Del Monte Beach, Monterey)

This is the biggest one I've seen since then, in 2014:
(1: Whaler's Cove, Point Lobos)

I'm hoping they'll come back soon; we desperately need them to eat the population boom of purple sea urchins that has been eating all the kelp in their absence.

Sea Star Wasting Disease

In 2013, a wasting disease started wiping out sea starts along the entire west coast.  Sunflower stars were hit hardest; I haven't seen a big one of them in almost two years.  Other species were also affected.  In earlier stages, they may be missing limbs.  In the later stages, they just disintegrate.

Here are some examples (1-2: Ochre stars, 3-5: Bat star)

(1-2: Monterey State Beach, Monterey / 3-5: San Carlos Beach, Monterey)