The Ocher Starfish of the Pacific Northwest
The ocher starfish is also known as the purple sea star. They grow to about 18 cm and can live for up to 20 years, making them one of the longest living sea stars in our area.
You can see them from Alaska to California and on all parts of the BC coast, you see them at low tide by the hundreds in some areas and they come in colors of purple, orange, yellow and brown. They are covered in a network of short bristly spines that are quite rough when touched.
They are very common on our coastal shores and feed on barnacles, limpets, snails, and mussels, when watched, you will notice that they can move at a very quick clip, this surprises some.
Ocher starfish spawn during the months of May, June and July. The males and females spend these months in deeper ocean waters where they release sperm and eggs into the sea. A large female may broadcast as many as 40 million eggs during the spawn. The starfish sperm and eggs join together without the assistance of the parents, resulting in fertilization. The resulting free swimming larvae have no interaction with their parent sea stars. Young purple starfish spend around six months feeding off plankton until they are large enough to begin hunting shellfish closer to shore. Purple starfish can reproduce asexually, as well, when a portion of the echinoderm fragments from the main part of the body and grows into a separate organism.
They are very pretty to look upon and quite populace so when you go to the beach, bring your camera and take home some pics. Look at low tide, in tidal pools and sometimes you will see them in the hundreds.