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Sunflower starfish

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Sunflower starfish
Sunflower Starfish.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Pychopodia helianthoides

Sunflower starfish mouth.jpg
Mouth of the Sunflower starfish

The Sunflower starfish is a species of starfish known by the scientific name Pychopodia helianthoides. It is perhaps best known for its extremely high number arms. Most starfish have five arms, but the sunflower starfish has up to 24 arms. It also has a remarkable way of moving using a very technical water vascular system which controls minute tube feet. It is the largest of all starfish and the fastest there is all because of all the tube feet it has. Its eats all types of things, even other starfish, so it can live in many different places.


View of the Sunflower starfish tube feet.

The sunflower starfish has soft flexible skin, that is nevertheless very protective for defense from predators and parasites. The covering or protection is called Pedicellariae. These are tiny stalked pincers that cover all the skin. All sunflowers have ossicles, which are the hard skeleton units under the skin. The sunflower starfish’s ossicles are more widely spread than other starfish, which is why the sunflower starfish is more flexible and soft. The gills of the sunflower starfish are located in places called papules, which are tine raised areas where it is thinner. From respiration the sunflower has to store and release wastes which is where the gills come in, but also are used for absorbing oxygen. The skin on the sunflower star fish is complicated but suits its life style.

The arms of a sunflower star fish are another very interesting part of them. They have two big sections in them. They do have a big difference in legs to normal starfish’s, when they are young they have a normal amount of legs though, which is five. When they grow up they can have about sixteen to twenty four legs.

The oral disk is a disk in the center of the sunflower starfish which contains its main organs. There is a ring shaped water canal in the main organs, which has branches leading out to the legs and tub feet. All the main organs play there part and are held by the oral disk making it a vital part of the sunflower starfish. The other really important part to the sunflower star is its tube feet. Without these there would be no locomotion and respiration. It uses a complicated hydraulic system to attach and release to objects. Sucking water up through the tube feet and through many canals and into different organs, the sunflower star is able to complete this task.


The sunflower starfish has are separate sexes and uses external fertilization. The male begins by arching up its body with its arms so it is half up and half on the ground. It does this so its center were it releases its sperm is free from the ground. When this is done it will thin release its gametes into the water. When it does do this process there is only a chance that the egg will be fertilized. [1]

If it does get fertilized the small microscopic larva will then float to the surface. They will float for two to ten weeks feeding, then sink to the bottom where it will begin to change into a plankton. After that it will then change into a young sunflower starfish with about five arms. Sunflower starfish will only breed in May or June. The average Life span of this star fish is 3-5 years. [2]



Sunflower starfish do not do much to help our environment except they and their larva will feed upon small organisms and types of plankton. So by eating these things it will continue helping the organisms and plankton in their correct order. [3]

In eating, the sunflower starfish is a carnivore. They are common in southern California and Alaska, but are largest in the Puget Sound, British Columbia, and Alaska. Some things they do eat are sea urchins, clams, crabs, snails, sea cucumbers, sand dollars, chitins and dead fish; they will even sometimes eat other starfish. Though they have this wide diet some creatures are lucky, because Sunflower starfish cannot go up into high grounds because their soft fleshy body needs to be next to water [4].They eat this crazy diet so they can move around more and are not stuck in one place; they can be in wet sand all the way to hard rocks. One place they do enjoy inhabiting in is places with lots on seaweed or kelp.[5]


One question commonly asked is “how is a sunflower starfish or just starfish an echinoderm”? Even though sunflower starfish do not have back bones like other animals, they do have hard plates under their skin, and some of those plates have spikes giving them one reason to be a echinoderm.

The middle or center of a starfish is circular and has arms coming out from the center. On normal starfish there are normally about 5, but on a sunflower starfish there can be up to about 24 arms. The starfish can be divided into different sections, and if an arm gets disconnected or “broken off” it will grow back. This starfish is one shape of an echinoderm, but other echinoderms can come in many different shapes.

One trait about an echinoderm is that they all have tubes going through out there body. The sunflower starfish has tubes from the center of their body going out to each arm with also has some connections to the tube feet, but it is in relation to other echinoderms[6]