Sunflower Sea Star sightings and breeding efforts!!

Sunflower Sea Star sightings and breeding efforts!!

Pycnopodia helianthoides, commonly known as the Sunflower Sea Star, have recently been sighted by divers off the coast of Oregon and California. This is great news for Kelp Forest health along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Starting in 2013, sea star wasting disease contributed to a huge decline in their populations, and until recently, sightings had become virtually non-existent. These gigantic stars which can reach an arm span of 3’ with up to 24 limbs (one of the largest stars on the planet), are a major predator of the Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, or Purple Urchin. With a decline in Pycnopodia populations, the urchin population exploded, and Kelp Forests suffered, as described in our December ’22 blog.

By Ed Bierman from CA, usa - Sunflower star, CC BY 2.0,


In other recent news, University of Washington biologist, Jason Hodin has been spearheading a Pycnopodia captive breeding program at a lab in Friday Harbor, Washington. These efforts, while still in their early stages, are showing promise of giving the species a helping hand in possibly creating a new generation with a higher resistance to wasting disease. We applaud this teams efforts and look forward to upcoming news about this innovative process.

To read a more in-depth article about the Friday Harbor Lab captive breeding program visit - Washington scientist brings new hope to dying coastal sea star - OPB

To learn more about research and efforts to support Kelp Forest health visit - Oregon Kelp Alliance - Oregon Kelp Alliance and Kelp Forest Program | Sustainable Reefs | Reef Check Foundation.

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