Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sunflower Sea Star

We saw a sea star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) much like this one in Port Townsend Bay, but the wind on the water kept the surface from being smooth enough for us to photograph it. We tried.
Description: Commonly 65 cm radius, but some large specimens reach 1 m across; orange, yellow, red to brown, sometimes purple; broad central disk with approximately 24 soft flexible arms.

Habitat: Commonly found on sand or gravel bottoms, and often on dock pilings.

Natural History: This is our largest and fastest sea star. Its soft, flexible body and numerous tube feet allow it to move quickly. It has been observed moving over sand or gravel at speeds up to 3 meters per minute. It feeds upon a large variety of organisms which include urchins, sand dollars, bivalves and sea cucumbers. It will also scavenge upon dead fish. Its mere presence causes many animals to show a dramatic escape response.

Here's what our camera was able to record.

When the water surface was calm, we could photograph this crab very easily.

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