Stylasterias forreri (de Loriol, 1887)

Common name(s): Velcro star, Fish-eating star, Long-ray star, Black star

Synonyms: Asterias forreri, Asterias (Urasterias) forcpulata, Orthasterias forreri, Orthasterias leptolena Stylasterias forreri
Phylum Echinodermata
Order Forcipulatida
Suborder Asteriadina
Family Asteriidae
Stylasterias forreri holding a ratfish it has presumably captured. Photographed in Howe Sound, British Columbia. Depth 45-55 feet (14-17 m).
(Photo by: Joe Gaydos of the Seadoc society )

Description:  This seastar has 5 rays (arms) which are very long but not bordered by conspicuous marginal plates. The diameter of the oral disk is much less than 1/3 the total diameter. The aboral surface has very large spines (4-5 mm tall) which are separated from one another or aligned in rows. Large pedicellariae with long, crossed jaws are arranged in a gray circle around each large spine. The tube feet are yellow. Total diameter to over 50 cm, ray length to 33.5 cm. Aboral color black, dark brown, olive, straw, or gray (not red, orange, or white).

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:  Stylasterias forreri is the only black seastar in our region. Orthasterias koehleri has a similar overall shape and presence of long aboral spines, but its pedicellariae have shorter teeth, plus O. koehleri can have straw, white, orange or even blue colors. 

Geographical Range:  Alaska (includng Arctic Ocean) south to southern California.

Depth Range:  Subtidal, about 6 to 532 m depth

Habitat:  Rocky or shelly-gravelly bottoms.

Biology/Natural History:  Has very large, active, crossed pedicellariae that it uses to catch fish (especially sculpins). Its main food, though, is snails such as Nucella lamellosa, Calliostoma ligatum, and Margarites sp. Also eats chitons and scallops. The ectosymbiotic polychaete worm Arctonoe fragilis may be found attached to it. Arms (rays) may detach from the oral disk if handled too forcibly. Can move up to 32 cm per minute. 



Dichotomous Keys:
  Kozloff, 1987, 1996
  Carlton, 2007 (not keyed)

General References:
  Gotshall 1994
  Harbo, 2011
  Lambert, 2000
  Morris et al., 1980

Scientific Articles:

Web sites:

General Notes and Observations: Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors:

This short video from SeaDoc society shows more visual angles taken of the seastar above

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2024):  Created original page
CSS coding for page developed by Jonathan Cowles

Salish Sea Invertebrates web site provided courtesy of Walla Walla University