Class Asteroidea

Order Valvatida

Family Goniasteridae


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).


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.