Ochre Star

Scientific Name Pisaster Ochraseus

Native To Northern Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico

Habitat Intertidal zone on the coast at depths of up to 100m

Diet mussels, limpets, snails, barnacles, echinoids and some decapods (lobster, shrimp, etc.)

Size and Age Can grow to be 10 to 25 cm in diameter and could live as long as 20 years (making it the longest lived star in the Pacific NW)

Natural History

Ochre sea stars are a highly abundant species of sea star found in the pacific intertidal zone. Their name is derived from the lively purple to orange color of their bodies. Living in wave swept areas, ochre stars have very strong suction feet that they use to cling to rocky surfaces to avoid being washed away. Ochre stars have a major effect on their ecosystems, so much so that they have been identified as a keystone species. The presence of ochre stars in intertidal zones allows for rich biodiversity. When ochre stars disappear from their environment, California mussels (one of their primary food sources) take over and dominate, decreasing biodiversity.

Least Concern

Conservation Status

Many ocean invertebrates requires delicate and balanced conditions to survive. For this reason they are known as an indicator species. When ocean conditions change, ocean invertebrates are the first to be affected. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification (from urban and agricultural run-off) are some of the factors that alter the water quality of our oceans.

Interesting Facts

  • Is covered in a webbed array of white spines
  • Can use its tube feed to open shells, giving access to the fleshy tissue inside which it eats by everting its stomaching and liquefying
  • Each arm has a light sensing organ that is used to navigate their rocky environment and find prey.
  • Ochre stars are dioecious, meaning there are distinct male and female stars
  • Has a higher tolerance to air exposure than other stars and can survive up to 8 hours in low tides