The sea stars in Howe Sound, as described in an earlier blog post, include various different body types. The ochre star, Pisaster ochraceaus, is very abundant in the shallowest waters of Howe Sound, and is often seen when surfacing along a rock wall, as in the feature photo above. Note, however, that most ochre stars are in fact purple in Howe Sound. These ochre sea stars have a standard compact, heavy arm structure, which is in line with what people typically envision when they think of a sea star or starfish shape.
Also included among the sea stars of Howe Sound are species that have spindly, spiky arms because of their relatively small center disc and long, thin arms. A good example is the painted sea star, Orthasterias koehleri, pictured at right.
Similar in shape is the velcro seastar, Stylasterias forreri, which can be either black or gray or creamy white in colour, but always with obvious spikes and tufts on its body surface, as pictured below.
Finally, a skinny sea star resembling these last two is the sand star, Luidia foliolata, which can be seen “running” along the seabed in the video below.
With the support of Sitka Foundation, the Vancouver Aquarium is embarking on a two-year project to train divers to identify marine life in Howe Sound, as part of our commitment to the research and conservation of this area. The information they glean on Howe Sound’s sea life will be presented in this series of blogs, and will be used to educate students taking part in the Aquarium’s school programs and AquaVan visits to inspire the next generation to keep learning more about marine biodiversity in British Columbia.