Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Catalog Number: USNM 1283
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Invertebrate Zoology
Preparation: Dry; Alcohol (Ethanol)
Locality: Tomales Bay, California, United States, North Pacific Ocean
- Holotype: Stimpson. 1857. Boston J. Nat. Hist. 6: 528-529, pl.23, figs.4-6.
Depth range (m): 88 - 88
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.
Habitat Type: Marine
Non-Migrant: No. All populations of this species make significant seasonal migrations.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Known prey organisms
Based on studies in:
USA: California, Southern California (Marine)
This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
- R. J. Rosenthal, W. D. Clarke, P. K. Dayton, Ecology and natural history of a stand of giant kelp, Macrocystis pyrifera, off Del Mar, California. Fish. Bull. (Dublin) 72(3):670-684, from p. 683 (1974).
Molecular Biology and Genetics
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: NNR - Unranked
Giant sea star
The giant sea star, Pisaster giganteus is a species of sea star that lives along the western coast of North America from Southern California to British Columbia. It makes its home on rocky shores near the low tide mark. It preys on mollusks. It can grow as large as 24 in (61 cm) in diameter. Its color varies from brown to red or purple.
Reproduction and regeneration
Giant sea stars have small eggs, and their sperm contain spherical heads. Once their larvae are born, they are bilaterally symmetrical. By the time they mature and reach adulthood they are centered around a set point with radial symmetry to their bodies. The gonads of the giant sea star grow in a winters time just in time for spawning season between the months of March and April.
Giant sea stars are usually found around the protected costal lines with low tide. They can often be found attached to rocks, pier supports or in the sand.
Giant sea stars have a dense body with wide arms. Its surface is either tan or brown, but on occasion the giant sea star can have a yellowish or grayish surface. They contain thick, blunt spines that are bluish in color with white, pink or purple tips that are swollen and surrounded by brown fuzz and pedicellariae that have a plier like shape. These pedicellariae are used as a protective mechanism against predators. They have no distinct pattern. They range from 36–48 cm (14–19 in) from the tip of one arm to the other. They are usually found up to 88 m (289 ft) down in the water.
Predators and prey
The giant sea star has only a few predators. Sea otters and sea birds feed on giant sea stars. Also, their larvae are subject to be made a meal out of by certain types of sea snails. They prey on several kinds of sea organisms including barnacles, gastropods, bivalves and limpets. It eats its prey by extending its stomach so it can fit into tiny gaps, such a mussel shells.
- Aquarius Aquarium Institute: Giant Sea Star
- Landenberger, Donald E. "Studies on Selective Feeding in the Pacific Starfish Pisaster in Southern California." Ecology, Vol. 49, No. 6 (Nov., 1968), pp. 1062-1075. Online. March 3, 2008.