Cushion Star (Pteraster tesselatus.)
by Scott Boyd
The Cushion Star is about 6 inches across with 5 thick, short arms that are yellow to tan in color. This sea star is commonly found in areas of broken rocks or on deep rock walls at depths ranging from 30 to 1500’. They are widely distributed from Japan and the Bering Sea in Alaska to California and are often found in the vicinity of cloud sponges, which are their favorite food.
To help protect itself from fish and other predators, the cushion star excretes huge amounts of thick mucus that must taste bad to predators. So bad in fact, that Roland Anderson warns about keeping cushion stars in the same aquarium with Octopus, as the copious amounts of slime released are detrimental to the health of the GPO’s and have been know to clog aquarium filters. Because of this “slime”, cushion stars are also commonly called Slime Stars. These stars have a very thick but soft body, which earned them their common name of cushion or pin cushion star.
Cushion Stars are used by scientists to produce steroids. Two new steroid sulfates have been isolated and a new minor steroid sulfate identified from our friendly local sea star Pteraster tesselatus.