Acanthaster planci bears between 8 and 21 arms that radiate from a central disc. Adults normally range from 250 to 350 mm in diameter, with some individuals over 700 mm in diameter. The mouth is located on the underside of the central disc (the aboral surface), and light-sensitive eyespots are present at the tips of the arms. Individual coloration varies from red and orange to purple, and is thought to be the result of differences in diet. The interior of the body contains the internal organs (stomach, digestive gland, and gonads). The skeletal structure is composed of tiny structures called ossicles, made of magnesium calcite. Acanthaster planci possesses large, venomous spines in contrast to the short, blunt spines usually present on starfish. The venomous quality of these spines is not fully understood; saponin has been discovered in the spines’ underlying tissue, though the quantity is not sufficient to trigger the painful reactions seen in humans who have come into contact with the spines. There is no evidence that A. planci injects toxins through the spines.
Range length: 700 (high) mm.
Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; heterothermic ; radial symmetry ; venomous
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike