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If you’ve been past otters lately chances are you’ve probably also seen our “Deep Grotto” exhibit, one of the other exhibits that I help take care of. This exhibit is our only cold salt water fish exhibit and includes several types of fish, 3 moray eels, and now a sea star!
Our sunflower sea star, affectionately named Jagger (because he’s a rock star!), joined our collection a few months ago and has been living up to his name and already has many many fans here at the aquarium.
Sea stars might be better known as “star fish”, but here at the aquarium we prefer the word stars because “star fish” implies that they are closely related to fish and other marine vertebrates. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. Sea stars are actually part of the echinoderm phylum making them most closely related to sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumber.
Sunflower stars live in the Pacific ocean all the way from Alaska to Southern California.
When most people think of sea stars they picture a typical “true star” with 5 arms. Would you believe it if I told you Jagger has 19 arms? In reality sea stars can have up to 25 arms and can grow over 3 feet from arm end to arm end!
The sunflower star is the largest of the sea stars and can move up to 3 feet per minute when they want to. And if they ever are bothered too much by predators they can simply shed their arms for a quick getaway. The arms will grow back in a few weeks. How’s that for an escape artist?
Sunflower stars love sea urchins, clam, abalone, and other sea stars. So far Jagger seems to favor pieces of mackerel and clam. If you stop by the aquarium you should try and find his purple body hidden among the kelp and rock work in our Deep Grotto exhibit!