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October 31, 2017
Contact: Heather Soulen

Fun Facts about the Sand Star Astropecten americanus

Astropecten americanus rise up like zombies from the the sand to feed when they sense food. These sand stars were collected nearly 15 years ago during the NEFSC sea scallop survey. Video credit: NOAA Fisheries/Heather Soulen, NEFSC. Audio credit: Justin Sabe
  1. Sand Stars (Astropecten species) includes over 100 species worldwide.

  2. Astropecten americanus are a common invertebrate species in the Mid-Atlantic Bight and Southern New England waters, often found in very high densities in about 300 to 820 feet of water.

  3. All Astropecten bury themselves using a combination of pointed tube feet and spines that help push themselves down into the sand.

  4. All Astropecten lack an eversible stomach like other sea stars, instead they swallow small invertebrate prey whole.

  5. Astropecten americanus are also scavengers – scientists in our Population Dynamics Branch have found fish bones and scales in their stomach, and even insects!

  6. Prey found in Astropecten americanus stomachs include commercially important species like juvenile sea scallops and ocean quahogs, although sea scallops are rare in the areas where Astropecten are most often found.

  7. Astropecten americanus may be expanding their range, now being found farther north and inshore.

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