SPINY RED STAR
Hippasteria phrygiana (Parelius, 1768)
5 (rarely 6) arms with broad, very spiny aboral surface. Vermilion. Sometimes puffy appearance. Covered with conspicuous bivalved, unstalked pedicellariae which can be seen with the naked eye. To 34 cm (13 in) across.
Alaska to southern California and also to the Sea of Okhotsk; 10 to 520 m (33 to 1,716 ft).
The SPINY RED STAR is aptly named. The aboral surface is completely covered with conspicuous sharp spines.
When feeding or ready to spawn it sometimes appears somewhat puffy.
In this close-up view the clam-shaped pincers (bivalved pedicellariae) are clearly visible.
This SPINY RED STAR is eating a fan of PINK GORGONIAN CORAL in Queen Charlotte Strait near the north end of Vancouver Island.
SPINY RED STARS also eat PINK HYDROCORALS such as the small colony seen in front of this star.
5 - 5
Uncommon. Seen fairly often in the Gordon Islands near Port Hardy, BC and in ORANGE SEA PEN (Ptilosarcus gurneyi) beds in Puget Sound. Also found in Knight Inlet, BC. Eats a variety of prey, including ORANGE SEA PENS, PINK GORGONIAN CORALS (Calcigorgia spiculifera), PLUMOSE ANEMONES (Metridium farcimen), ORANGE ZOANTHIDS (Epizoanthus scotinus) and PINK HYDROCORALS (Allopora verrillii). The tiny, clam-shaped pincers of this species are quite remarkable and diagnostic, easily distinguishing it from the THORNY STAR, which is somewhat similar-looking but which has fewer spines and no bivalved pincers.
This star causes the SWIMMING SEA ANEMONES (Stomphia didemon and Stomphia coccinea ) to react with a dramatic swimming escape response, but I have never seen it actually eating either of them.