|Crossaster papposus; photo courtesy of Neil McDaniel, |
Total eclipse of the star
Common Sun Stars can grow to an impressive 14 inches or 34 centimeters across – larger than a dinner plate – but they also grow slowly, taking 10 years to reach maximum size. As small juveniles, they prefer shallow subtidal habitats; as adults they migrate to deeper waters, down to 1,200 meters in depth. This explains why we rarely encounter them while sediment sampling, although they occur from Alaska to Puget Sound – as well as the north Atlantic coast).
|Two Common Sun Stars with different color patterns; photo|
courtesy of Dave Cowles at https://inverts.wallawalla.edu/
|Close up of pseudopaxillae on top surface of a |
preserved Crossaster papposus specimen.
|Common Sun Star goes into attack mode;|
photo courtesy of Neil McDaniel
Can you put your stomach outside your body to eat a big meal? Well this star can. It has an eversible stomach, which means it can turn its stomach inside out, shooting it out through its mouth. This gives the Common Sun Star the ability to handle the larger prey items it likes to munch such as sea urchins, other sea stars, and clams. When it appears with a big hump, you know it’s enjoying a big meal.
A brighter future?
Critter of the Month
Our benthic taxonomists, Dany Burgess and Angela Eagleston, are scientists who identify and count the benthic (sediment-dwelling) organisms in our samples as part of Ecology’s Marine Sediment Monitoring Program. We are tracking the numbers and types of species we see in order to understand the health of Puget Sound and to detect any changes over time.
Dany and Angela share their discoveries by bringing us Critter of the Month. These posts will give you a peek into the life of Puget Sound's least-known inhabitants. We'll share details on identification, habitat, life history, and the role each species plays in the sediment community. Can get enough benthos? See photos from our Eyes Under Puget Sound collection on Flickr.