Blue Zoo: Chocolate Chip Sea Star
Featuring one amazing marine animal per week.
The chocolate chip sea star (Protoreaster nodosus) is named for the brown cones on its back – which are remarkably reminiscent of a certain delicious cookie! Sometimes they are also called horned sea stars.
Chocolate chip sea stars can grow up to 1 foot (30 cm) across in diameter, and typically have five arms. Often they are tan-colored but they can be other shades as well.
Photo by Franz Xaver via Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons License.
This species can be found in the Indo-Pacific region. They mostly live in seagrass beds and sandy bottom habitats in shallow water, but can also be found on coral reefs as deep as 100 feet (33 meters). They forage in the sediment for food, eating whatever they can find from burrowing mollusks to detritus or waste.
Photo by Karelj via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.
Like all sea stars, these guys can regenerate lost body parts. Though many people refer to them as starfish, they are not really fish – they are invertebrates that are part of the Phylum Echinodermata! The mouth is located on the underside of the body, or the oral surface. While they don’t have eyes, these scavengers do have light sensors – but they use smell to locate their food.
In general, populations of chocolate chip sea stars are considered to be healthy and stable, although in some areas, overharvesting for the aquarium trade can be a problem.