Asterias laevigata (Linnaeus, 1758).
OTHER COMMON NAMES
Usually five arms with a body diameter that can reach 12 in (30 cm). Adults have brilliant blue coloration. Juveniles are blue-green, purplish with dark spots. The genus Linckia has many color morphs, making it difficult to identify species.
Common in shallow waters of Indo-Pacific Oceans. In particular, eastern Africa to Hawaii and the South Pacific Islands to Japan.
Adults found along coral gravel substrates of reef terraces in direct sunlight, sandy sediments, and under rocks.
Adults characteristically knock over coral when foraging. Hides during the day in coral and rocky crevices. Juveniles may sometimes aggregate in large numbers under coral and rock. Has a commensal shrimp Periclimenes cornutus.
Non-selective grazer, feeding on detritus, debris, and small organisms. Everts stomach to feed on prey. Predator is the Triton trumpet snail Charonia tritonis.
Little known about their natural history. Asexual reproduction.
Found on both sides of the Atlantic, ranging from North Carolina, Bermuda, south to Florida, the Bahamas, Brazil, and the Cape Verde Islands off western Africa.
Prefers shallow, quiet waters of reef flats, sea grass, lagoons, and mangrove channels. Often found among sea grass beds (e.g., Thalassia testudinum and Halodule wrightii) and on sand flats associated with these sea grasses.
Solitary. Visible during day on sand and sea grass patches. Sluggish and large sea star with an estimated speed of 5-13 in (12-33 cm) per minute.
FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET
Feeds mainly on microorganisms and particulate matter associated with sand, sea grass, and algal substrates. Stomach everted for feeding.
Sexual reproduction. Broadcast fertilized eggs into the water column. Larvae undergo planktonic stage before settling to the seafloor. Can regenerate arms.
Not listed by the IUCN, but considered rare. Vulnerable to humans. Locally protected in the Caribbean.
SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS
Exploited for its ornamental value and sold as souvenirs as dried or garishly painted objects. ♦
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