The velcro sea star (Stylasterias forreri), also known as the long-armed, black sea star or fish-eating star, is a subtle but deadly predator. Its usual prey includes snails and chitons but it can even capture vertebrates (animals with spines) thanks to the hundreds of tenacious “grabbers” covering its top (see the image to the right for a magnified view). These toothy, plier-like grabbers are stronger than those found on most other sea stars, giving the velcro star the ability to snare small fish and scallops that accidentally land on its top side. After the prey is snagged, the velcro star uses its flexible arms to pull the meal under and to its mouth. Another unusual feature: when stressed (which can occur when it’s picked up) the velcro sea star may readily release one or more arms. The most common colors for velcro sea stars are black and pale brown; a yellowish type is also found along the West coast.
You can learn more about these amazing sea stars in our Life on the Edge exhibit.