Sunflower Sea Star    Pycnopodia helianthoides

Gliding along in shallow water at low tide, the largest starfish in Puget Sound and one of the largest in the world, the Sunflower Starfish, hunts for prey.  It’s home range spreads from Alaska to Baja California.

Found on rock, sand, mud and gravel in subtidal areas, the Sunflower Starfish eats clams, sea urchins, sea cucumbers, fish eggs, and anything else it can capture.   Alaska king crabs and seagulls are listed as the main predators.  If a ray is attacked, it can be dropped off and left while the animal escapes.

Despite growing to three feet in diameter with up to 24 rays, the Sunflower Starfish is the fastest of the starfish moving up to an incredible three feet a minute using it’s around 15,000 tube feet.  So feared is this pinwheel-shaped carnivore of the deep that when it is detected, sea cucumbers will rise up and flop back and forth to swim away, scallops snap their shells together to swim and cockles use their big foot to jump away. During the low tides of May and June, the Sunflower Starfish can often be seen below the floats at the Boston Harbor Marina. .  

Reproduction is mainly in May and June when eggs and sperm are released.

                          Produced by David W Jamison                                  Filmed by Phil Sconce

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