Cultivating Wonder and Discovering Design in the Pacific Northwest
Common Sea Star
These are the most common sea stars in the Salish Sea. They are also called ochre or purple sea stars, but can be orange, brown, or yellowish. Look for a network of white prickly spines on its body to help distinguish it.
You will often see them in clusters of other stars on or under rocks in the intertidal zones. Get close and study their busy tube feet which enable them to move and eat.
Ochre stars eat many tide pool creatures, but two of their favorites are California mussels and goose barnacles. Both of those animals attach to their surface and are easy for the sea star to surround and open. If you see a star bunched up in the middle, it is probably eating, as its stomach is on its underside.
If the ochre star loses an arm (called a ray) it can grow it back. Sometimes, you will see one with one arm that is shorter because of that.
Ochres are the longest living sea stars in the Salish Sea. They can live up to 20 years in the wild.