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

Pteraster militaris (O.F. Müller, 1776)
Wrinkled Star
Family: Pterasteridae
Photo of species

© Neil McDaniel  Email the photographer   (Photo ID #15911)

E-Fauna BC Static Map
Distribution of Pteraster militaris in British Columbia
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Family Description:

The aboral side of body is inflated and the oral side flat. A supra dorsal membrane supported by the spines of the paxillae covers the true aboral surface to create a nidamental chamber. In the centre of this membrane is a large opening (osculum). Many smaller spiracles pierce the rest of the membrane. On each side of the ambulacral furrow is a wide actinolateral membrane supported by long spines; between the spines are small holes, each guarded by an operculum, which lead to the nidamental chamber; water enters here and is expelled through the osculum. No oral intermediate plates.

Species Information

Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this taxon. If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., two subspecies may be illustrated) then links to the separate images will be provided below.

Pteraster militaris is a stubby-armed, pale yellow sea star with a wrinkled aboral surface bearing a large pore (osculum) in the centre. Its colour can vary from creamy white to yellow or pink. Its five arms can grow up to 7.5 cm long. The ratio of arm to disc is 2.0 to 2.5. The aboral surface is a soft, fleshy, wrinkled, supradorsal membrane covering the aboral pseudopaxillae, which consist of a low base, slightly higher than it is wide, with 3 to 5 slender spinelets radiating from the top. Under magnification, tiny calcareous bodies can be seen in the membrane but no muscle bands as in Diplopteraster multipes. The adambulacrals of P. militaris have a transverse webbed comb of 6 to 9 spines, the proximal spine being the smallest. Extending horizontally from the outer end of the plate is a large spine (about three times length of the plate) embedded in the actinolateral membrane. The free outer edge of this membrane almost delineates the edge of the arm when viewed from the aboral side. Each mouth plate has 6 to 8 slender marginal spines joined by a membrane. A single large glassy-tipped suboral spine stands near the suture on each plate.

Similar Species

Pteraster militaris has longer arms and a softer, more wrinkled skin than its close relative, Pteraster tesselatus. The fans of marginal spines on adjoining mouth plates are not joined together by a continuous membrane as in P. tesse


Pteraster militaris eats the sponge Iophon pattersoni and the hydrocorals Allopora verrilli and A. petrograpta (N. McDaniel personal comment). The Atlantic form begins breeding in October. The female retains some eggs in the nidamental chamber and releases others. Large females brood a smaller proportion of spawned eggs than small females. Sperm enters through ambulacral pores to fertilize the eggs in the chamber. Thirty or forty juveniles grow to an arm's length of 4.5 mm in this chamber. While in the chamber, they feed on maternal skin, faecal material, mucus, aborted larvae and, possibly, dissolved organic matter. The sexes are separate and females have a continuous breeding season with a slight decrease in spring. Male gonads usually ripen in synchrony with those in other males, but female gonads do not.



Circumboreal; in the North Pacific, from the Bering Sea to northern Oregon and to the Sea of Japan; in the North Atlantic, on the Norwegian coast and to Cape Cod, U.S.A. Found at depths of 10 to 1100 metres, usually on mud, but in less than 30 metres on rocky substrates. In the Arctic, it is found on rock and a mixture of rock and mud.

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.

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: 2024-07-20 6:41:56 AM]
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