Ochre Sea Star (Pisaster ochraceus)

Pisaster ochraceus, or the ochre sea star, is typically orange or purple, but is sometimes both!

Pisaster ochraceus, or the ochre sea star, is typically orange or purple, but is sometimes both!

This sea star has five stout rays that range in length from 10 to 25 centimeters (4 to 10 in). The rays are arranged around an central body. While most individuals are purple, they can be orange, orange-ochre, yellow, reddish, or brown. The top of the sea star contains many small spines (ossicles) that are arranged in a net-like or pentagonal pattern on the central body. The ossicles are no higher than 2 mm. In Pisaster the tube feet have suckers on their distal ends (the part furthest from the body) which allow them to attach to the rocky substrate and live in heavily wave-swept areas. Ochre sea stars are either male or female but it is very difficult to discern gender until mating season, when the males broadcast sperm and the females broadcast eggs. Ochre sea stars can live up to twenty years!