Pacific Blood Star, Henricia leviuscula

The Pacific blood star (Henricia leviuscula), also known as the blood star or the blood starfish, is a species of starfish that is classified within the Echinasteridae family. It can be found in the Pacific Ocean, along the coasts of North America. It prefers a habitat within intertidal zones in rocky areas, at depths of up to 1,312 feet. This species is small, reaching an average diameter between 3.1 and 4.7 inches. It can have between four and six arms, although individuals with five arms are most common. Although the coloring of this species is typically reddish orange in color, it can vary from tan to purple, with some individuals holding spotted gray bodies or stripes of light purple on the arms.

The Pacific blood star can be either male or female and it is not know exactly how they breed. Some reports show that the small females will brood their young, protecting them while they develop, while larger females re said to release their eggs into the water alongside males who release their gametes into the water. It is also thought that no females of this species brood eggs. It preys mainly on bacteria and sponges, filtering these small creatures from the sand and into its mouth, although it is known to turn its stomach inside out and engulf its prey like other starfish species. Birds and humans are the only known predators of the Pacific blood star.

Image Caption: Pacific Blood Star in tidepools at Rialto Beach. Credit: Medtrails/Wikipedia