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  • Writer's pictureAustin Pugh

Meet the Critters: The Atlantic Red Sea Star

Critter Fun Facts: Red sea stars are considered a keystone species as they have no natural predators. They control the populations of their prey species from growing too large for the ecosystems where they are found. Like many other Echinoderms, red sea stars move with tube feet which move which are powered by a hydrostatic skeleton, which uses fluid-filled chambers to flex and move. These tube feet also help with eating, by transferring food along the underside of the sea star towards the mouth.

OA Impact: Ocean Acidification reduces the growth of red sea stars, leading to an overall negative effect on this important Atlantic keystone species.

Diet: Red starfish are predators and since they can't swim all of their prey lies on the seafloor, such as: mussels & bivalves, other sea stars, barnacles, snails, and when they come across dead creatures on the seafloor, they act as opportunistic scavengers.

Predators: None

Starfish on black background
Atlantic red sea star (Asterias rubens) Image from Hans Hillewaert Wikimedia commons

Habitat: The red sea star's preferred habitat is on a rocky/gravel bottom, since these critters can tolerate a wide array of environmental factors they inhabit both shallow and deep water ecosystems.

Geographic Distribution: The North American distribution of the red sea star ranges from Labrador south to the Gulf of Mexico on the Atlantic Coast. The red sea star has also been reported in the Arctic Ocean.

To see the North American distribution on the Map of Canada's OA Resources by clicking here!

The South American distribution continues the North American Atlantic distribution to Northern Brazil.

These stars are also widespread across the European Atlantic coast, as well as, the Northern African Atlantic coast.

A common sea star lies on the ocean floor probing the floor with its tube feet
Common Sea Star (Asterias rubens) Image from: Klaus Kevin Kristensen Wikimedia Commons

Linnaean Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Echinodermata

Subphylum: Asterozoa

Class: Asteroidea

Subclass: Ambuloasteroidea

Infraclass: Neoasteroidea

Superorder: Forcipulatacea

Order: Forcipulatida

Family: Asteriidae

Genus: Asterias

Species: rubens

Etymology: Asterias is Latin for stars, rubens is Latin for blushing. The name Asteria rubens translates roughly to "Blushing Stars"

Common Names: common starfish, common sea star, sugar star, Atlantic red sea star

A beach covered with red sea stars at low tide
Beach Covered in red sea stars Image From: Halldis Ringvold/Sea Snack Norway Wikimedia Commons


If you want to see any other critters featured in this blog let us know by emailing!

All images are from Wikimedia commons and can be found by clicking here!

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