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Pisaster brevispinus - Short-spined sea star

Geographic range:
Alaska to San Diego, California

Key features:
Light pink color, short spines and thick rays.

Similar species:
Pisaster giganteus -- Giant-spined star Pisaster ochraceus -- Ochre star Evasterias troschelii -- False Ochre Star

bay (rocky shore), bay (sandy shore), exposed rocky shore, exposed sandy beaches, kelp forest, protected rocky shore, protected sandy beaches
Pisaster brevispinus - Short-spined sea star image


Primary common name:
Short-spined sea star
  ITIS code:
Synonymous name(s):
General grouping:
Sea stars, urchins, cucumbers, sand dollars, brittle stars

Geographic Range
Range description:
Sitka, Alaska to Mission Bay in San Diego, California.
Northern latitude extent:
  Southern latitude extent:
East longitude extent:
  West longitude extent:

Intertidal Height
Lowest intertidal height:
meters OR -2 feet
  Highest intertidal height:
meters OR 0 feet
Intertidal height notes:
Rarely occurs in the intertidal.

Subtidal Depth Range
Minimum depth:
0 meters OR 0 feet
  Maximum depth:
150 meters OR feet
Subtidal depth notes:
More common in the subtidal. One reference lists a maximum depth of 182 m.

bay (rocky shore), bay (sandy shore), exposed rocky shore, exposed sandy beaches, kelp forest, protected rocky shore, protected sandy beaches
Habitat notes:
Unlike the other species of Pisaster, Pisaster brevispinus is found both on rocky reefs and outlying sandy areas, including harbors and other soft-sediment habitats.

Relative abundance:
Common to uncommon, depending on habitat type.

Species Description
General description:
Pisaster brevispinus, as its name suggests, has short spines. It also has very stocky rays, up to 32 cm long. The color is a very pale pink, and depending on water clarity and lighting conditions can almost appear white. Usually with five rays.
Distinctive features:
The pink coloring is diagnostic, as are the thick rays and short spines on the aboral surface.
Diameter: 65 cm maximum

Natural History
General natural history:
Pisaster brevispinus is found both on sandy and rocky habitats. Unlike its congeners, when in sandy habitats Pisaster brevispinus is able to consume infaunal prey, such as burrowing clams and subsurface gastropods (e.g., the olive snail Callianax [nee Olivella] biplicata).
Large adults have relatively few predators, although southern sea otters Enhydra lutris nereis have detached rays to consume the gonads. Sea gulls have also attempted to eat Pisaster brevispinus exposed during very low tides.
On rocky habitats Pisaster brevispinus consumes bivalves, gastropods, barnacles and sessile annelids. On sandy surfaces Pisaster brevispinus may dig after infaunal clams, gastropods, and sand dollars Dendraster excentricus.

Feeding behavior
Feeding behavior(s):
Carnivore, Omnivore, Scavenger
Feeding behavior notes:
Pisaster brevispinus will scavenge nearby carcasses, but it is also an active predator.
January - May  
Gonads begin to develop in the winter and spawning takes place in spring, usually in April. Sexes are separate and fertilization takes place externally. Larvae disperse in the water column. New recruits (to 3 cm diamater) can be seen in summer.

Cordell Bank National Marine Sanctuary:
Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary:
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary:
None are known.
Listing Status:
Monitoring Trends:
Carlton, J.T. 2007.
The Light and Smith Manual, 4th edition
Intertidal Invertebrates from Central California to Oregon
University of California Press. 1001 p.

Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing. 398 p.

Morris, R.H., D.P Abbott, and E.C. Haderlie. 1980. Intertidal Invertebrates of California. Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. 690 p.

Data supplied by SIMoN Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Anthopleura xanthogrammica - Giant green anemone

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