Information on the Common Sun Starfish

Updated July 20, 2017

The sun starfish is a fascinating echinoderm that differs from other sea stars in several ways. Also called the sunflower starfish because of its resemblance to the flower, it has up to 24 arms. It is the largest of all starfish, growing up to 39 inches in length. It is fast moving for a starfish and is a predator that aggressively hunts its prey. Though the sun starfish can be kept in saltwater tanks, aquarium hobbyists must carefully consider the tank mates of this predator starfish.

Characteristics of the Sun Starfish

The sun starfish has an appearance like no other sea star. Though it starts out like other starfish with just five arms, as it matures it develops many more. With up to 24 arms, also known as rays, this beautiful creature often has the appearance of the sun or a sunflower. The largest of all starfish, specimens of over three feet in length have been found. The sun starfish comes in colours ranging in various hues of yellow and orange, brown, pink and purple. It has soft yet thick skin that allows it to survive for several hours when left out of the water during high tide. Sun starfish are commonly found in the waters around the California coast, Alaska, British Columbia and Puget Sound.

Arm Regeneration of the Sun Starfish

Though all sea stars regenerate lost arms, the sun starfish is known for regrowing lost arms or rays quickly and often. Because it is a voracious hunter, this predator is often losing arms when attacking and killing its prey. Therefore, the sun starfish has evolved to regenerate its lost arms quickly for its survival. It is not uncommon for sun starfish to be found with arms of many different lengths because they are constantly being broken off and regenerating.

Predatory Nature of the Sun Starfish

The carnivorous sun starfish is a hunter that will stalk and chase its prey. Unlike many of its more passive relatives, the sun star not only hunts, but it moves quickly when chasing prey. It can cover more than 40 inches in one minute. The sun starfish has more than 15,000 small feet on the underside of its body that help make the sea star a fast-moving echinoderm. Once the prey is caught, the aggressive sun starfish has a firm grip that makes escaping nearly impossible. The sun starfish devours its prey as quickly as it catches it.

Prey of the Sun Starfish

Many other sea creatures are prey of the sun starfish. Whether fast moving through the water or still along the ocean floor, this predatory sea star is good at finding and catching a variety of sea life. Conkles, abalones, sea cucumbers, urchins, sea snails, clams, crabs and even squid are all sea animals that the sun starfish hunts, catches and eats as its natural prey. When live animals cannot be found, the sun starfish will also eat dead fish.

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About the Author

Jennifer Lynn has been writing as a correspondent and reporter since 1991. She has written for numerous newspapers and currently writes as a correspondent for Gannett. Lynn has a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on English from Ohio University, where she also studied journalism at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.