Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Ochre Sea Star

(Pisaster ochraceus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found along rocky shores in the Northeastern Pacific, from Alaska to Baja California.

Size: 10-18 inches across

Wild Diet: Mussels, chitons, limpets, snails, barnacles, sea urchins, and crustaceans

Predators: Sea otters, gulls and other sea stars

Lifespan: Up to 20 years in aquariums

Reproduction: Ochre sea stars spawn in spring or early summer. Larvae float in the water as plankton until they are heavy enough to settle on the bottom.

Behavior: Ochre sea stars have hundreds of tiny suction-cupped tube feet that allow them to move around and eat their prey. They use their tube feet to pry open mussels so that they can evert (stick out) their stomach and insert it in between the two shells, leaving it there until the meat has been digested. When finished with the meal, they pull their stomachs back inside their body and continue their quest for food. They can be found on rocky shores and in kelp forests where there are strong currents and crashing waves. Their tube feet allow them to hold on tightly to rocks so that they aren’t swept away.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Not Evaluated

Ochre sea stars are the most common intertidal sea stars and face no major threats.

Did you know?

  • Ochre sea stars may be yellow, orange, brown, reddish, or purple.
  • If a sea star loses an arm it can typically grow a new one.
  • Sea stars have light-sensitive spots on the tip of each arm.