Sea Stars, Brittle Stars, Sea Cucumbers, Sea Urchins, Feather Stars

The phylum Echinodermata (“spiny-skinned”) comprises of 6,000 living marine species of sea stars, brittle stars, sea cucumbers, sea urchins, sand dollars, and feather stars (sea lilies), among other animals.  Approximately 180 species of echinoderms live in the Pacific Northwest region.  They are prolific, with impressive numbers of both species and individuals.


Rainbow Stars

Rainbow Star

Rainbow Star

Rainbow Star

Rainbow Star

Rainbow Star
Common Name: rainbow sea star, long rayed star, long-rayed sea star, long-armed sea star
Orthasterias koehleri
Size: to 60cm (24 in) across
Range: Alaska to Mexico
Habitat: Intertidal to 283 m (934 ft)
Description:  Notice the rows of prominent spines and flexible body.

 


SunFlower Star Fish

Sunflower Star Fish, Porteau Cove

Sunflower Star Fish, Porteau Cove

SunFlower Star Fish

SunFlower Star Fish

SunFlower Star Fish, Tuwanek BC

SunFlower Star Fish, Tuwanek BC

SunFlower Star Fish
Pycnopodia helianthoides
Common Name: sunflower sea star, sunflower starfish, many rayed star, twentyarm star, twenty-rayed star, twenty-rayed sea star
Size: to 1 m (39 in) across, 5kg (11lbs) weight
Range: Alaska – Southern California
Habitat: On rocky shores and many other surfaces, intertidal to 435m (1,435ft)
Description: Broad disc with up to 24 rays; juveniles typically start with 5 rays.  Soft, flexible body, abundant surface spines, pincers and gills.  Orange and mottled red-orange, purple and purple grey.
Comments: Largest, softest and having the most rays of any northern Pacific species.  Very fast moving, up to 360ft (110m) per hour.  Elitits escape response from northern abalone and swimming responses from swimming scallops, the California sea cucumber and giant dendrontid.  Often digs out butter clams and leaves pits in sandy areas.


Grey Brittle Star

Grey Brittle Star, Taken Kelvin's Grove

Grey Brittle Star, Taken Kelvin’s Grove

Grey Brittle Star
Ophiura lutkeni
Size: Disc to 3/4 (2cm) diameter; arm radius to 6″ (15cm)
Range: Alaska to Mexico
Habitat: In sand-mud, intertidal and subtidal
Description: Grey, green-grey or blue-grey with dark bands
on rays



Blood Star

Blood Star, Shot at Kelvin's Grove

Blood Star, Shot at Kelvin’s Grove

Blood Star
Henricia leviuscula
Alternate Name: Pacific Henricia
Size: Arm radius to 61/4 (15.5 cm)
Range: Aleutian Islands to Turtle Bay, Baja California
Habitat: On rocky surfaces, intertidal to 1,435′ (435 m)
Description: Disc often has grey patch.  Long, thin arms
compared to most other sea stars; orange to brick red.
3 rows of plates along lower side of each ray.
Comments: Most common blood star of BC, of which
there are likely several subspecies.  It feeds primarily
on sponges


Spiny Red Star

Spiny Red Star

Spiny Red Star

Spiny Red Star
Hippasteria spinosa Verrill 1909
Size: Arm radius to 65/8 (17 cm)
Range: Kodiak Island, Alaska to southern California
Habitat: On sand, mud, shell and rock, 33 – 1,680′ (10-504m)
Description: 5 rays, large prominent tapering spines over body. Red to orange.
Comments: Feeds primarily on orage sea pen but also white plumose anemones, zoanthids, tunicates and worms.


Feather Star

Diver with Feather Stars

Diver with Feather Stars

Feather Stars

Feather Stars

Feather Star
echinoderms
Size: Arms ten, 150 – 280 mm long; first pinnule 17-21 mm long with 45 – 60 joint.  Third pinnule 20mm with 36 joints
Range: Shumagins and Sannak Island, Alaska south to Natividad Island, Baja California.
Habitat: 11 – 1,252 m
Description: Feather Stars are primarily suspension feeders.  They may walk around using the cirri or swim if dislodged using the arms.  Feather stars are deep living and rarely seen in the Pacific Northwest Juveniles are stalked like the stalked crinoids.
Comments: 


California Sea Cucumber

 

California Sea Cucumber, taken at Whytecliff Park

California Sea Cucumber, taken at Whytecliff Park

California Sea Cucumber, taken at Whytecliff Park

California Sea Cucumber, taken at Whytecliff Park

California Sea Cucumber
Parastichopus californicus
Common Names: California Sea Cucumber, Giant Sea Cucumber, Giant Red Sea Cucumber
Size: from 25 – 40 cm in length (9.8 – 15.7 inches)
Range: Gulf of Alaska to Baja California
Habitat: inter-tidal zones to 90 m, in both exposed and sheltered areas.
Description: California Sea Cucumbers are generally reddish brown in colour but have many colour forms ranging from dark brown to white.  All over its long flat body, there are soft, lighter coloured, cone shaped pseudospines that help it move across the ocean floor.
Comments: The California Sea Cucumber eats tiny scrap particles of decaying matter or detritus, usually abudant in the areas they live.  They have two different methods of feeding: direct deposit feeding, and suspension feeding.  Direct deposit feeding is when the sea cucumber drag their tentacles along the ocean floor to pick up food.  Suspension feeding is when they use their tentacles to collect particles out of the water.
Te Sunflower Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides) and the otter are both predators of the sea cucumber. As well, some parts of Asia harvest California Sea Cucumbers for the muscles along the inside of the body wall.  To protect itself when confronted with extreme danger, then internal organs are ejected out the anus, distracting predators with the sticky viscera.  Also, they use their 5 long muscle bands to wriggle and writhe in order to escape from predators.


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