Sunflower Star

photo of a Sunflower Star

All the Better to Hug You With - Sunflower star: Pycnopodia helianthoides

This big boy is one of the largest sea stars in the world. It can grow up to one meter (39 inches) across and weigh as much as a large family cat. The sunflower star gets its name from its many arms: it can have up to 24. More arms mean more tube feet – up to 15,000. Despite its girth, the sunflower star can move as quickly as one meter (40 inches) in a minute. Abalone don’t stand a chance! Its skeleton is softer and more flexible than other sea stars. It’s a badass predator that feeds on small and large marine creatures.

Unfortunately, the sunflower star has not escaped Sea Star Wasting Syndrome plaguing stars along the west coast.

The disease begins with white lesions and dying tissue and leads to a "melting" of the sea star. Scientists have found evidence for a link between a virus and the syndrome. And they’re studying how losing sea stars in large numbers affects marine ecosystems.