Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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Ochre Sea Star

Pisaster ochraceus

The Ochre Sea Star has five thick arms that are dotted with rough, small spines that are aligned in straight-lined patterns. They are seen in purple, orange, and brownish-red colors. Studies have been done to determine the cause of its colors (diet, location, genes). So far, the mystery continues.

Range & Habitat

 This species is found in the rocky, shallow intertidal shores of the Pacific coast from Alaska to California. Predominantly occurs in nearshore and estuarine waters. 

Conservation Status: Not Evaluated

The sea star wasting syndrome is negatively affecting this species. First starts the lesions on the outer part of the animal, then the decay of the tissues, next the breakup of the body, and eventually death. They may die within days of the symptoms starting. The cause of this disease is unknown, and several possibilities are being considered.


Consists mostly of mussels, but additional is supplemented by barnacles, snails, limpets, chitons, clams, sea urchins, dead animal, and plant materials. 

Life Span

In the Wild: 20 years
In Human Care: Unknown

Fun Facts about the Ochre Sea Star

  •  It is one of the only sea stars that feeds all year round.
  •  It can regrow a lost arm, taking up to a year depending on the water temperature and food supply. 
  • This species grips the shell of its prey and its tube feet pulls it open.  Then it forces out its stomach and puts it on the prey.  The digestive juices from the stomach dissolve the tissues and then the stomach absorbs what has been dissolved.  Complete digestion can take 2-3 days.


Cowles, D. (Ed.). (2008). Pisaster ochraceus (Brandt, 1835).  

Georgia Aquarium (Ed.). (2021). Ochre Sea Star. 

Oregon Coast Aquarium. (n.d.). Why Do Ochre Sea Stars Come in Different Colors? 

Oregon Conservation Strategy. (n.d.). Ochre Sea Star.


Updated June 13, 2023
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