Pink short-spined sea star (South Sound marine life)

Pink short-spined sea star (Pisaster brevispinus)

The pink short-spined sea star is one of the largest sea stars, growing up to 2 feet in diameter. It is a close relative of the purple sea star. Marine biologists recognize this by giving both animals the same scientific first name (genus) of Pisaster.

While the purple sea star can occur in both sheltered waters and exposed ocean rocks, the pink short-spined sea star is found only in sheltered waters and in the subtidal zone. It can be found in the spring climbing piling at local marinas. But it can’t tolerate any drying, unlike its purple cousins, and retreats to the subtidal area as daytime low tides become common.

These animals range from southern Alaska to southern California. Spawning occurs in the early summer.

They feed on a variety of prey, depending on the substrate. Barnacles, mussels and tube-dwelling polychaetes are attacked on hard substrates. They turn to clams, snails and sand dollars on soft bottoms, where they use their tube feet to dig out clams. One clam, called the basket cockle, will jump away from the sea star using its big digging foot when touched by the sea star’s tube feet.