The cushion seastar, (Wulff, 1995), ranges from around South Carolina to the Caribbean Islands, and is most common in the shallow waters in the Carribean. The cushion seastar has been introduced to the Cape Verde Islands in Western Africa.
- Other Habitat Features
- intertidal or littoral
- Range depth
- 1 to 37 m
- 3.28 to 121.39 ft
- Range length
- 0.20 to 0.50 m
- 0.66 to 1.64 ft
- Development - Life Cycle
Fertilization is external. Sperm and eggs are released when a male and a female seastar are in close proximity. The seastars will reproduce when there are dense aggregations, up to 14 per square meter. Having large numbers of males and females ensures eggs will be fertilized. ("Seastar", 2009; Puglisi, 2000)
- Mating System
- polygynandrous (promiscuous)
In subtropical areas, (Puglisi, 2000)reproduces synchronously during the summer. In warmer areas, asynchronous spawning can occur year round.
- Key Reproductive Features
- seasonal breeding
- year-round breeding
- gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
- broadcast (group) spawning
- Breeding interval
- The cushioned star spawns yearly during the summer in subtropical areas; it continuously spawns in warmer areas.
Parental care is negligible. The planktonic larvae are dispersed over long distances and feed on their own. (Puglisi, 2000)
- Parental Investment
The lifespan of the cushion seastar depends on food availability. If there is low food availability, the cushion star will re-absorb its own tissue, which leads to a reduction in size. (Puglisi, 2000)
The cushion seastar is a solitary species and moves around slowly using its tube feet. It can move approximately 0.12-0.33 m per minute and is active during the day. (Freeman, 2011)
Communication and Perception
Cushion seastars recognize when a potential mate is in close proximity. To increase chances of fertilization, individuals aggregate when ready to spawn. These events rely on environmental cues, such as the length of daylight. Seastars are able to sense light and dark, and therefore movement, through a microscopic eye called an ocellus. The seastars may use chemical signals to indicate that they are ready. ("Seastar", 2009; Hutchins, 2004)
- Other Communication Modes
The cushion seastar is an omnivore and also a deposit feeder. echinoids, holothuroid juveniles, and other invertebrates including polychaete worms, copepods, ostracods, crab larvae and sponge tissue. The seastar piles sediments and everts its large cardiac stomach, which allows it to surround the food. Digestive juices are then excreted to break down the food. (Guzman and Guevara, 2002; Puglisi, 2000)feeds on
- Primary Diet
- Animal Foods
- aquatic or marine worms
- aquatic crustaceans
- other marine invertebrates
- Other Foods
- Foraging Behavior
Seastars are most vulnerable to predation at the larval and juvenile stages, and are presumably preyed upon by fish or other echinoderms. Juvenileare green, which provides camouflage.
The only recorded predator for an adult cushion seastar is the triton Charonia variegata, which is a gastropod. The cushion seastar's daily activities coincide with the changes in light intensity, usually around dusk and dawn. This allows them to avoid predators and arrange foraging activity with the activity of their prey. ("Seastar", 2009; Hutchins, 2004; Scheibling, 1980)
- Anti-predator Adaptations
Via feeding, the cushion seastar can turn over sediment at a rate of 1.9 times in a 24-hour period. (Puglisi, 2000)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Cushion seastars are large and easily seen and are thus of sight-seeing value. They have also been heavily harvested as souvenirs. (Hutchins, 2004)
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
There are no known adverse effects ofon humans.
This species is not listed on the IUCN Red List, CITES appendices, the United States Endangered Species Act list, but it is protected in the Carribean because of over-exploitation by souvenir hunters. (Puglisi, 2000)
Rachel Miranda (author), Rutgers University, Shital Patel (author), Rutgers University, David V. Howe (editor), Rutgers University, Renee Mulcrone (editor), Special Projects.
- 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.
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
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
- active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
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.
An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.
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.
- intertidal or littoral
the area of shoreline influenced mainly by the tides, between the highest and lowest reaches of the tide. An aquatic habitat.
referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.
A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.
eats mollusks, members of Phylum Mollusca
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.
an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
- 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).
structure produced by the calcium carbonate skeletons of coral polyps (Class Anthozoa). Coral reefs are found in warm, shallow oceans with low nutrient availability. They form the basis for rich communities of other invertebrates, plants, fish, and protists. The polyps live only on the reef surface. Because they depend on symbiotic photosynthetic algae, zooxanthellae, they cannot live where light does not penetrate.
- saltwater or marine
mainly lives in oceans, seas, or other bodies of salt water.
an animal that mainly eats dead animals
- 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
uses touch to communicate
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
- year-round breeding
breeding takes place throughout the year
animal constituent of plankton; mainly small crustaceans and fish larvae. (Compare to phytoplankton.)
2009. "Seastar" (On-line). Accessed January 13, 2011 at http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Sea_star.
Freeman, S. 2011. "Cushion star (Oreaster reticulatus)" (On-line). Grzimek's Animal Life. Accessed January 14, 2011 at http://animals.galegroup.com/web/grzimeks/animals/Oreaster_reticulatus?searchTerms=oreaster.
Guzman, H., C. Guevara. 2002. Annual reproductive cycle, spatial distribution, abundance, and size structure of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Marine Biology, 141 (6): 1077-1084.
Hutchins, M. 2004. Lower metazoans and lesser deuterstomes. Pp. 367-370 in D Thorney, N Schlager, eds. Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, MI: The Gale Group, Inc.
Metaxas, A., R. Scheibling, M. Robinson, C. Young. 2008. Larval development, settlement, and early post-settlement behavior of the tropical sea star Oreaster reticulatus. Bulletin of Marine Science, 83 (3): 471-480.
Puglisi, M. 2000. "Oreaster reticulatus" (On-line). Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce. Accessed March 09, 2011 at http://www.sms.si.edu/IRLSpec/Oreaster_reticulatus.htm.
Scheibling, R. 1980. Abundance, Spatial Distribution, and Size Structure of Populations of Oreaster reticulatus (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) on Sand Bottoms. Marine Biology, 57: 95-105.
Wulff, J. 1995. Sponge-feeding by the Carribean starfish Oreaster reticulatus. Marine Biology, 123: 313-325. Accessed March 09, 2011 at http://cat.inist.fr/?aModele=afficheN&cpsidt=3670445.