Tuesday, August 31, 2010
This is Pteraster tesselatus, commonly known as a slime star. As its name implies, when disturbed this star can produce copious amounts of slime, which may protect it from predators . It eats sponges and the like and lives in the colder waters off the west coast of the US.
It also has an interesting feature common to many members of its family. It has a 'brood pouch'. The surface that you see is actually a soft covering which covers the true surface of the sea star. In other members of the family, females will release their eggs from their gonopores (like all other sea stars), but retain them under that covering until they develop into juvenile sea stars and crawl out. In this particular species, they do not brood their young, and instead send them shooting out of the osculum, an opening in the covering. The osculum is generally used for exchanging water from the water vascular system to the outside, and can be seen opening and closing even in individuals who are not spawning.