Starfish, Pacific Northwest
The leather starfish has a smooth, slimy skin and is a mottled reddish brown to orange color. The gill areas are rusty brown and the outside edge is a greenish grey color. Five arms taper broadly towards the extensive central disk and can reach up to 15 cm in length. It has a smell that is similar to garlic.
They can be found in the Pacific Northwest from Alaska to southern California, they are common along the coast of British Columbia and can be seen on all of Vancouver Island. Leather starfish can be found from the intertidal zone to depths of over 90 meters.
The diet of these sea stars varies from sea anemones and sea squirts to sea cucumbers, sea pens, and sponges. Some of them scavenge on the bottom of the ocean. They have sensors at the end of each of their arms which detect prey. However, some anemones are adapted to sense a chemical produced by the leather starfish and are able to detach and float away before being eaten. When a leather starfish encounters food which is sedentary, it will protrude its stomach out through its mouth and use enzymes from its stomach to breakdown the food into a liquefied form. After digesting its prey, the leather starfish pulls its stomach back into its body.
They reproduce through external fertilization. The female sheds her eggs into the water to be fertilized by the male’s sperm which is also discharged into the water. The tiny eggs are a yellowish orange color. The embryos are carried away by currents.
They have adapted to reproduce asexually. They have the ability to regenerate. If a limb is lost, they just grow a new one. One sea star can be cut in half and each side will regenerate a new half becoming 2 starfish.
Leather starfish are preyed upon by seagulls and sea otters. Sea otters tend to only eat a part of the Leather star, which allows the remainder of the sea star the chance to regenerate. Gulls will tear off and eat the arms.