• Scenic View from Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island ©timhaufphotography.com

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Sunflower Star

NPS
 

Common Name
Sunflower Star

Scientific Name
Pycnopodia helianthoides

Habitat
Near-shore sand and rocky bottom.

Additional Information
The magnificent sunflower star inhabits low intertidal and subtidal areas ranging from Alaska to San Diego, California. Juvenile stars begin life with 5 arms, but once mature, adults have close to 24! They have very soft, spongy skin that comes in a kaleidoscope of colors - purple, green, brown, orange, pink and yellow. They are the largest sea star in the kelp forest reaching lengths of over a meter from tip to tip.

The sunflower star is a voracious predator often traveling up to 40 inches per minute to chase down its prey. This unique species of sea star has a skeleton composed of disconnected pieces. This allows for them to open their mouths wide enough to engulf large prey. They eat sea urchins, snails, clams, sea cucumbers, crabs and even other sea stars.

Did You Know?

Anacapa Island lighthouse                         timhaufphotography.com

The Anacapa Island lighthouse, turned on in 1932, was the last permanent lighthouse built on the west coast.