Dawson’s Sun Star
Solaster dawsoni is a 12 or 13 armed, rather uncommon sea star which can be found at depths ranging from low tide to 1400 feet. This Sun Star resides in cold, rocky costal waters, ranging from Alaska to California. It is one of the 38 species of Sea Stars the divers can encounter in the Pacific Northwest, and can grow up to 20" in diameter. Also commonly referred to as a morning star or cannibal sun star, it is usually red or orange in color, but can vary from brown to gray-yellow.
The Dawson’s Sun Star it one of the top benthic predators, and preys on other sea stars, especially Red Sea stars, Rose stars and Leather stars as well as sea cucumbers and nudibranchs. Other starfish have been seen fleeing when touched by a Sun star. They will even prey on their own kind including a very close relative the Stimpson’s Sun star. Solaster dawsoni is a very slow sea star which has to either overlap or firmly grasp its prey before it can eat. Because a sea star is blind, a large sea star will sometimes flee when touched by a small one. In this way, Solaster dawsoni has been known to kill sea stars much larger than itself.
This sun star spawns in the period from March to June releasing large yolky eggs which float to the surface, where they are fertilized and develop into pelagic larvae. They swim around until they develop into their benthic form and settle to the bottom. As the top dog in the sea star food chain, Solaster dawsoni has no real predators, other than it’s own species.