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Leather Star

Dermasterias imbricata

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Leather Stars are a species of sea star and are related to other marine invertebrates such as sea urchins and Sand Dollars. They typically have five wide arms surrounding a large, high central disk. Their upper surface is blue-gray, mottled with red and orange. The star’s texture is smooth and slippery to the touch, reminiscent of wet leather. They are relatively small when compared to other sea star species, rarely growing larger than 12 inches (30 cm) across.

This animal feeds largely on sea anemones, California Stichopus (more commonly known as sea cucumbers) and Purple Sea Urchins. Occasionally they may eat sponges, hydroids, Sea Pens and other invertebrates. Unlike many other sea stars, Leather Stars swallow their prey whole and digest it internally. When touched by a Leather Star, some of the prey animals will detach themselves from the substrate and swim away.

Range and Habitat

Leather Stars are found from Prince William Sound, Alaska to San Diego, California. They live on rocky shores and in unpolluted harbors on pilings and sea walls. They prefer the very low intertidal and shallow subtidal zones to 300 feet (91 m) in depth.

Conservation Status

Common.