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Andy Horton spends a year examining the biology and behaviour of the rock pool fish and other marine life.
 


 
 
 

 

British Marine Life Study Society
Echinodermata
Common Starfish
Common Name(s):
Common Starfish

Common Seastar (mostly USA)
 
Scientific Name:
  Asterias rubens
Family:
   Asteriidae
Usual Size:
to 50 cm, tip of one arm to another, including the central disc.

            Photograph by Andy Horton
 
Identification:
Five-armed sea star. Usually orange, but occasionally bright red and crimson when it could conceivably be mistaken for another species.
Breeding:
Sexes separate. Planktonic larvae. 

Habitat:
In British seas, and on the shore when the numbers can reach epidemic proportions, the Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, is the most prevalent conventional starfish of the N.E. Atlantic Ocean. It is an Arctic-Boreal species with a maximum temperature tolerance of about 22° C.
Usually found on the mussel beds offshore. 
Behaviour:
Its principal prey is mussels (consuming them in their shells), but it will eat fish eggs, carrion, and other molluscs.

Starfish consuming a Cockle

Common Starfish eating a mussel
from Southwick Beach 2012

Asterias feeding on a Grey Topshell

Asterias feeding on a Grey Topshell

Enemies: Common Sunstar, Crossaster papposus.


Reports: 
 
 
 
 
20 August 2012
An early morning mussel collecting visit to Kingston Beach on a low spring tide found the unprecedented frequent (30+) occurrence of very small Common Starfish Asterias rubens on the underside of rocks just above Chart Datum.

Full Report


 

14 March 2010
Thousands of Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, were washed up on the strandline on the shingle beach at Budleigh Salterton in south Devon (East Devon AONB). The line of washed up starfish stretched for over a mile.

Report and Photograph by Scott Eley


            Starfish at Budleigh Salterton
         Photograph by Tony Herbert on flickr

9 December 2009
An exceptional mass stranding of millions (a galaxy) of Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, stretched in a broad band for over a quarter of a mile on Holkham Beach on the north coast of Norfolk. 


Their usual residence would be feeding on the mussel beds offshore. From a previous occurrence underneath the chalk cliffs east of Brighton Marina, Sussex, it is my surmise that the mass migration occurs because the Common Starfish have exceeded their food supply offshore. Perhaps, this occurs because of commercial dredging of the mussels. In this case the stranding could have been exacerbated by north-easterly gales. 

Comments by Andy Horton


26 March 2008
After a recent bout of northerlies in North Wales I took the dog for a walk down on Red Wharf Bay on Anglesey and found all sorts of things washed up. Common Starfish, Asterias rubens,  were very abundant, as a rough guess at 5-10 per square metre, amongst the rest of the wreck.

Full Report

23 March 2008

Mixed Asterias and Sunstars (Photograph by Rupert Smith)
Over Easter, after some heavy storms with snow blowing in off the North Sea, I discovered hundreds of Common Starfish, Asteria rubens,  a lot of Sunstars, Crossaster papposus, and Brittlestars washed up on the sands of Holkham Beach, Norfolk.
 
Report & Photographs by Rupert Smith


17 March 2008
After the storms and the report of a mass stranding of Common Starfish, Asteria rubens, on Brighton Beach, I inspected the strandline on Shoreham Beach. All along the strandline there was a greater number of hundreds of thousands of Slipper Limpets and tens of thousands of Whelk egg balls amongst the usual mixed shell collection including Whelks and Oysters. One Undulate Ray eggcase looked in good condition and was placed in an aquarium in case the embryo was still alive.  There were a few dozen dead Starfish at the Old Fort, but not the hundreds reported from Brighton beach


To qualify as nationally newsworthy a Common Starfish stranding must be in tens of thousands. 

Sussex Marine Life Reports

4 -5 March 2008
Hundreds of thousands (perhaps many more) of Common Starfish, Asteria rubens, were washed on the shore of east Kent.
Picture Link

1 January 2007

Starfish (Photograph by Wednesday Livingstone)

Common Starfish on the chalk bedrock at Seaford
Photograph by Wednesday Livingstone

The thousands of Common Starfish, Asteria rubens  on Seaford Head beach, East Sussex, were now reduced to about fifty seen on a small patch at low tide. 


22 May 2006
Thousands of dead Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, were seen on the beach at Lydd-on-Sea, Kent. All the starfish were strewn along the high tide line, and for every step I took I passed 20 to 30 dead starfish. I walked about half a mile along the beach and the line of dead starfish seemed never ending in both directions. Some of the starfish were laying on the sand and in the sand pools but these too were dead. Also, about 30 Sea Mice, (an annelid worm), Aphrodite aculeata, were found washed up dead.
NB: This discovery followed two days of gales. 

Report by Wendy Carrig


28 January 2006
Thousands of dead specimens of the Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, were washed up on the beach about a mile and a half to the north of Tywyn on the Cardigan Bay coast of north Wales.  There seem to be various interpretations of these mass strandings, including winter storms and changes in water temperature.

Report by Derek Williams


17 March 2002
Thousands of Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, were washed up on the beach at Holkham, Norfolk, on the east coast of England after sustained north-easterly gales. 


31 December 2001
Thousands of Common Starfish, Asterias rubens, are discovered washed up dead on the shore at Formby, Merseyside, Lancashire. 

Starfish Strandings Message Index
Information wanted: Please send any records of this invertebrate, with location, date, who discovered it, how it was identified, prevalence, common name and any other details to Shorewatch Project EMail Glaucus@hotmail.com 

 
  All messages will receive a reply. 
 
Shorewatch Project

 

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FIVE KINGDOMS TAXONOMIC INDEX TO BRITISH MARINE WILDLIFE
Use these links if your are familiar with the scientific classifications of marine life