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Phylum Echinodermata > Class Stelleroida > Subclass Asteroidea
Sand sea stars
Astropecten sp.
Family Astropectenidae
updated Oct 2016

Where seen? These fast moving sea stars are commonly encountered on our Northern shores. In sandy or silty shores. They usually remain buried in the sand during the day and emerge to forage at sunset. But they are sometimes seen foraging over the ground on a cool morning or late afternoon.

Features: Diameter with arms 5-10cm.
Arms long and tapered. There are particularly long stout flat spines along the sides of their arms. These spines are harmless (not toxic) and probably help them to burrow more quickly into the sand. These spines resemble the teeth of a comb and members of this family are sometimes called Comb sea stars.

Sand stars can move fast, often 'racing' across the sandy bottom of a pool. Their tube feet are modified for a more powerful downward thrust and end in points instead of suckers. These probably allow them to get a grip on soft sediments and burrow more quickly. They can also rapidly burrow into the sand as Mei Lin's video clip below shows.

Astropecten species are identified by the arrangement of the spines along their arms.

What do they eat? These small sea stars are carnivores! They hunt clams and snails, but also eat any small creatures that are buried in the sand. They find buried prey by the substances they release. These sea stars don't push their stomachs out of their mouths. Instead, they swallow their prey whole. It may take several days to digest their prey. They spit out any indigestible bits such as the shells.

Sometimes, many tiny white snails are found on the upperside of a sand sea star. These are parasitic snails (Family Eulimidae).

Pasir Ris Park, Jul 08


Pointed tube feet.
Chek Jawa, Apr 05

Three arms regenerating.
Pasir Ris Park, Jul 08

Dead sand star.
Pasir Ris Park, Jul 08

Tiny white snails sometimes
seen on the sea star.

Changi, Jun 05

Sand sea stars on Singapore shores


Painted sand star
6-8cm in diameter


Arms flatter with
larger marginal plates.


Plain sand star
4-6cm in diameter

Arms not so flat with
smaller marginal plates


Orange sand star
10-15cm in diameter

Bright orange underside.



shared by Neo Mei Lin on her blog

Astropecten species recorded for Singapore
from Wee Y.C. and Peter K. L. Ng. 1994. A First Look at Biodiversity in Singapore.
*from Lane, David J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinderms of Singapore, and Didier VandenSpiegel et al. 1998. The Asteroid fauna (Echinodermata) of Singapore with a distribuion table and illustrated identification to the species.
in red are those listed among the threatened animals of Singapore from Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore
**from WORMS

  Astropecten species commonly seen awaiting identification
Species are difficult to positively identify without close examination.
On this website, they are grouped by external features for convenience of display
.
  Orange sand star
Painted sand star

  Family Astropectinidae
  Astropecten koehleri=**Astropecten indicus
*Astropecten bengalensis
*Astropecten indicus
(Plain sand star)
*Astropecten novaeguineae

Links References
  • K. S. Loh . 31 Aug.2011. Diet and feeding in the sea star Astropecten indicus (Doderlein, 1888). The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 2011 59 (2): 251-258 and Loh Kok Sheng's blog post about this study.
  • Lane, David J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 187pp.
  • Didier VandenSpiegel et al. 1998. The Asteroid fauna (Echinodermata) of Singapore with a distribution table and illustrated identification to the species. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology 1998 46(2): 431-470.
  • Coleman, Neville. 2007. Sea stars: Echinoderms of Asia/Indo-Pacific. Neville Coleman's Underwater Geographic Pty Ltd, Australia.136pp.
  • Ng, P. K. L. & Y. C. Wee, 1994. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened Plants and Animals of Singapore. The Nature Society (Singapore), Singapore. 343 pp.
  • Schoppe, Sabine, 2000. Echinoderms of the Philippines: A guide to common shallow water sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, sea cucumbers and feather stars. Times Edition, Singapore. 144 pp.
  • Chou, L. M., 1998. A Guide to the Coral Reef Life of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 128 pages.
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