E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Wildlife of British Columbia

Hippasteria phrygiana Verrill, 1909
Spiny Red Sea Star
Family: Goniasteridae
Photo of species

© Neil McDaniel  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #15881)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Hippasteria phrygiana in British Columbia
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Recent DNA work has shown that Hippasteria spinosa is the same as Hippasteria phrygiana. The latter takes precedence as it is the older name.

Note Author: Neil McDaniel

Reference: Foltz, D.W. et.al. 2013. Global population divergence of the sea star Hippasteria phrygiana corresponds to the onset of the last glacial period of the Pleistocene. Marine Biology (2013): 1-12.

Species Information

Hippasteria spinosa is spiny, vermilion and star-shaped with five arms up to 17 cm long. The oral surface is usually a lighter orange to white. The ratio of arm to disc ranges from 1.7 to 2.6. The aboral surface has large plates, each bearing a single stout tapering spine; secondary plates are interspersed, some with a conspicuous bivalve pedicellaria, the jaws of which are slightly wider than their height. These pedicellariae are variable and may resemble the H. californica type, which are taller and narrower. All plates are surrounded by granules, giving them a star-shaped appearance. H. spinosa has 16 or 17 superomarginals, each surrounded by a row of smooth granules and bearing two stout spines, reducing to one at arm tip; the inferomarginals are similar. The oral intermediates are oval and surrounded by pointed granules bearing stubby spinelets or low bivalve pedicellariae. The adambulacrals have two or three furrow spines and a single stout spine on the oral surface of the plate, surrounded by granules or spinelets. The mouth plates have four or five marginal spines.


Flat body. Prominent marginals; the supero- and inferomarginals are similar. The aboral plates are flat or paxilliform, bearing granules, low stumps or spines. Only the radial areas have papulae. Pedicellariae are generally present. The tube feet have suckers.

Similar Species

Hippasteria spinosa should not be confused with any other species in this book. Its closest relative is H. californica from deeper water.


Hippasteria spinosa feeds primarily on the orange sea pen Ptilosarcus, which it consumes by everting its stomach over the apical end and progressing down the length. This sea star also eats the white-plumed anemone Metridium, the zoantharian Epizoanthus scotinus, the colonial sea squirt Metandrocarpa, the polychaete worm Nereis, and the eggs of the nudibranch Armina. It is also known to evoke the swimming response of the anemone Stomphia.

H. spinosa probably breeds from May to July, producing pelagic lecithotrophic larvae.



Kodiak Island, Alaska, to southern California on the North American coast and to the Sea of Okhotsk in the western Pacific. Found in depths of 10 to 512 metres on mud, sand, shell or rock. Common below 100 metres; also common at diving depth on the west coast of Vancouver Island and other exposed parts of the coast.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Hippasteria spinosa Verrill, 1909

Additional Range and Status Information Links

Additional Photo Sources

General References

Recommended citation: Author, Date. Page title. In Klinkenberg, Brian. (Editor) 2021. E-Fauna BC: Electronic Atlas of the Fauna of British Columbia [efauna.bc.ca]. Lab for Advanced Spatial Analysis, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [Accessed: 2024-07-23 8:15:32 AM]
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