Description: As with other Leptasterias, this seastar is only moderate in size and has 6 rays. The ray to disk ratio in this individual is 4. The aboral surface is covered with blunt spines and with pedicellariae. This species is part of the Leptasterias hexactis complex which exists here in the Pacific Northwest. See 'How to Distinguish from Similar Species' below for why I have identified it as something other than L. hexactis and given it a tentative identification as L. coei.
Note that this is only a tentative species identification. If it is indeed L. coei it is far out of its reported range and was found on a different substrate (rocky intertidal), although subtidal soft bottoms were within a few hundred meters.
How to Distinguish from Similar Species: This species differs from Leptasterias hexactis in the following ways: Color: A purplish or rusty red rather than grayish blue-green. Aboral surface: Aboral spines well-spaced, cylindrical, and blunt, surrounded by circles of pedicellariae (photo, photo, photo) (Lambert, 2000 says they are crossed pedicellariae in L. coei but I couldn't tell for sure in this specimen). There is no carinal row of spines along the aboral surface of the rays (photo). Oral surface: Some of the adambulacral plates have one spine, while others have two (photo, photo). Some of the adambulacral spines also have pedicellariae attached to their sides (photo).
Geographical Range: Kodiak Island to Juneau, Alaska
Depth Range: 18-187 m (but this individual was intertidal)
Habitat: Mud or sand (but this individual was in an intertidal boulder field)
nothing is known about this species
Verrill, A.E., 1914. Harrington Alaska Series, Vol. 14. Monograph of the shallow-water starfishes of the North Pacific coast from the Arctic Ocean to California. Smithsonian Institution, New York.
General Notes and Observations: Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors:
We found this species in the lower rocky intertidal at Sares Head in summer 2015. 2015 is one year after a major die-off of seastars, including some of the Leptasterias complex, occurred here. In the summer of 2015 I found quite a few L. hexactis on the rocks (though less than before), plus a few very odd individuals like this one.
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Salish Sea Invertebrates web site provided courtesy of Walla