Henricia sanguinolenta

Geographic Range

Henricia sanguinolenta is most often found in the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. It can be seen from Greenland to Cape Hatteras on the western side of the Atlantic. It is frequently found on the west coast of Scotland. (Boolootian, 1966; Buchsbaum and Milne, 1960; Picton and Morrow, 2004)


The blood star can often be found along the shore, on or beneath rocks and on gravel. It may live in a somewhat exposed habitat, and is often found living in the midst of some species of sponges. Henricia sanguinolenta can inhabit shallow waters and ranges down as deep as 365 m. (Nicholas and Cooke, 1971; Picton and Morrow, 2004; Pratt, 1935)

  • Range depth
    365 (high) m
    1197.51 (high) ft

Physical Description

Henricia sanguinolenta can be found in a variety of different colors, but it is very often seen in a rich red color, which is how it acquired the common name of blood star. It can also be colored purple, lavender, orange, or yellow. A similar species, Henricia oculata is almost indistinguishable from H. sanguinolenta, but has the spines on the former's dorsum are blunt. The blood star grows to a diameter of 7 to 10 centimeters. It has five rays or arms which taper evenly to the tips, no marginal plates, two tube foot rows, and no pedicellaria. Henricia sanguinolenta has a sandpapery texture and fine spinelets with 3 to 6 glassy points on its dorsal surface. The sides of it arms are curved smoothly, with no clear distinction between dorsal and ventral surface, and each has a narrow ambulacral groove which contains the tube feet. (Buchsbaum and Milne, 1960; Picton and Morrow, 2004; Pollock, 1998; Pratt, 1935)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    7 to 10 cm
    2.76 to 3.94 in


Henricia sanguinolenta is considered a stable gonochoric. In other words, it has separate sexes and the ratio of the sexes is approximately equal. This species generally reproduces between the months of February and May. It migrates into shallower, warmer water during the breeding season. Its eggs are kept beneath the disk of the sea star to incubate. The female deposits her eggs on the ocean floor and situates herself over the eggs with her body raised for three weeks. The eggs are covered in sticky mucus, so they remain tightly together. The parent fasts during this brooding period as well. (Boolootian, 1966; Grzimek, 1972; Nicholas and Cooke, 1971)

This species is one of the few sea stars that broods its eggs until they become independent. The larvae of H. sanguinolenta do not go through the free-swimming larval stage as most sea star larvae do. They continue to live enlosed in the dome created by the parent's arms until they grow into tiny sea stars that can survive on their own. (Boolootian, 1966; Buchsbaum and Milne, 1960; Grzimek, 1972)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female


Henricia sanguinolenta is often seen living amongst sponges and possibly using the currents the sponges create to assist in their feeding. This species is one of the few sea stars that broods its eggs until they become independent. The larvae of H. sanguinolenta do not go through the free-swimming larval stage as most sea star larvae do. They continue to live enlosed in the dome created by the parent's arms until they grow into tiny stars that can survive on their own. (Boolootian, 1966; Buchsbaum and Milne, 1960; Grzimek, 1972)

Food Habits

This species of sea star feeds on suspended material using the filter-feeding, but also sometimes consumes the tissues of sponges, ascidians and other sessile invertebrates. (Boolootian, 1966; Dijkstra, et al., 2006; Grzimek, 1972; Pollock, 1998)

  • Animal Foods
  • cnidarians
  • other marine invertebrates

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Henricia sanguinolenta does not have any substantial direct impacts on human prosperity or health. It is known to feed on to feed on invasive species of ascidians in North America (Djikstra et al., 2006). It is nonetheless a bright and colorful seastar that can be viewed by visitors along the shore line. (Buchsbaum and Milne, 1960; Dijkstra, et al., 2006)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Henricia sanguinolenta on humans.

Conservation Status

Henricia sanguinolenta is not considered an endangered or threatened species.

Other Comments

A toxin in the coelomic fluid of Asterias forbesi is fatal when injected into most species of sea stars, but does not have an effect on Henricia sanguinolenta. (Boolootian, 1966)


Renee Sherman Mulcrone (editor).

Sarah Guedry (author), Southwestern University, Stephanie Fabritius (editor), Southwestern University.


Atlantic Ocean

the body of water between Africa, Europe, the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), and the western hemisphere. It is the second largest ocean in the world after the Pacific Ocean.

World Map

Pacific Ocean

body of water between the southern ocean (above 60 degrees south latitude), Australia, Asia, and the western hemisphere. This is the world's largest ocean, covering about 28% of the world's surface.

World Map


Referring to an animal that lives on or near the bottom of a body of water. Also an aquatic biome consisting of the ocean bottom below the pelagic and coastal zones. Bottom habitats in the very deepest oceans (below 9000 m) are sometimes referred to as the abyssal zone. see also oceanic vent.


an animal that mainly eats meat


the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.


particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).


animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature

external fertilization

fertilization takes place outside the female's body


union of egg and spermatozoan


a method of feeding where small food particles are filtered from the surrounding water by various mechanisms. Used mainly by aquatic invertebrates, especially plankton, but also by baleen whales.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an animal that mainly eats plankton


the regions of the earth that surround the north and south poles, from the north pole to 60 degrees north and from the south pole to 60 degrees south.

radial symmetry

a form of body symmetry in which the parts of an animal are arranged concentrically around a central oral/aboral axis and more than one imaginary plane through this axis results in halves that are mirror-images of each other. Examples are cnidarians (Phylum Cnidaria, jellyfish, anemones, and corals).

saltwater or marine

mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Boolootian, R. 1966. Physiology of Echinodermata. New York, London, Sydney: Interscience Publishers.

Buchsbaum, R., L. Milne. 1960. The Lower Animals; Living Invertebrates of the World. London: Hamish Hamilton.

Dijkstra, J., L. Harris, E. Westerman. 2006. Distribution and long-term temporal patterns of four invasive colonial ascidians in the Gulf of Maine. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 342(1): 61-68.

Grzimek, D. 1972. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 3: Mollusks and Echinoderms. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Nicholas, D., J. Cooke. 1971. The Oxford Book of Invertebrates. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Picton, B., C. Morrow. 2004. "Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland" (On-line). Henricia sanguinolenta. Accessed 07/14/04 at http://www.habitas.org.uk/marinelife/species.asp?item=ZB1660.

Pollock, L. 1998. A Practical Guide to the Marine Animals of Northeastern North America. New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press.

Pratt, H. 1935. A Manual of the Common Invertebrate Animals Exclusive of Insects. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston's Son & Co., Inc..