SUNFLOWER SEA STAR, the largest Starfish - by request
I really appreciated this question as we dive in the kelp beds off Catalina Island in Southern California where Sunflower Sea Stars are fairly common and I did not know that they were the largest species of starfish. I have seen them about 18-20” (45-50cms) across. I was turning one over in about 30 feet of water when a harbor seal’s face suddenly appeared in front of my mask. It had come up underneath me so we were belly to belly, and he was just checking me out. I however was gulping down oxygen and trying not to panic. :)
The sunflower sea staris a large predatory sea star usually with 16–24 limbs called rays. It is the largest sea star in the world. Sunflower sea stars can grow to have an arm span of 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) in diameter. The color of the sunflower sea star ranges from bright orange, yellow and red to brown and sometimes to purple, with soft, velvet-textured bodies and 16–24 arms with powerful suckers. Most sea star species have a mesh-like skeleton that protects their internal organs. Easily stressed by predators such as large fish and other sea stars, they can shed arms to escape, which will grow back within a few weeks. They are preyed upon by the king crab.
Sunflower sea stars are common in the Pacific from Alaska to Southern California, and are largest in Puget Sound, British Columbia and Alaska. They generally inhabit low subtidal and intertidal areas rich in seaweed or kelp.
Purple and Orange Royal Sea Star
Necklace Sea Star