Sand Stars in West Lakes

March 16, 2019 | Posted in: Marine invertebrates, Seastars

Sand Stars in West Lakes
by Steve Reynolds
We recently received an enquiry from Jerusha King about starfish in West Lakes, as follows: –
“Hello, recently starfish have started appearing on the lakes edge at Semaphore Park. I have lived in the area 6 years and have not observed them until the last month or so. Today spotted twelve in around 100 metres. I am wondering if they are an invasive species that should be reported, I have a photograph but do not know who to approach? Cheers, jerusha”
I sent this reply to Jerusha: –
“Hi Jerusha, thanks for reporting your sightings to us. It is not unusual to find starfish in the lake, but large numbers of them or the sudden appearance of certain species is of great interest. Would you please send us some of your photos for ID purposes? Cheers, Steve”
Jerusha’s response was: –
“Hi, Thanks so much for your prompt reply. When I looked at the pictures on your website, I thought it appeared similar to Astropecten preissi, but I know nothing about starfish so I don’t know what I’m looking for.
“I have attached some photos, but the video my son took of one that he had flipped over might be better as it shows both sides.

“The video was too large to email, so I posted it to YouTube. Let me know if they are not clear enough, we only had an old phone with us, but we could easily walk down and take some clearer photos if needed as we live very close. Kind Regards, Jerusha King”
I wrote back, saying “Hi Jerusha, thanks for these photos and that video link. You may be right about A.Preissi. We have seen them ourselves. It certainly is a sand star, Family Astropectinidae, but could possibly be A.vappa or A.polycanthus. It is hard to be sure, but we can enlist help by posting your photos to iNaturalist. So, you saw them at the ramp at Dotterel Drive? I use that ramp myself sometimes. I would like to do a write up about your query if that’s OK with you. Cheers, Steve”
Jerusha’s response was, “We live on Pelican Place with one side of house facing Gannet Grove, so the location we walk is straight down from Gannet Grove, and that is where we have seen the sandstars. Happy for you to write up the query, thanks. Cheers, Jerusha “

I told Jerusha that I had posted the sand star photos on iNaturalist and that the initial response to the photos is that they are A.Preissi.

Lyndon Zimmermann found these sea stars in West Lakes in 2017: –

The approximate size of the sightings was 60 to 150mm diameter. I had suggested at the time that they were A.Preissi.

The above dorsal view of Lyndon’s starfish features as the header photo for this report. Many thanks go to Lyndon and Jerusha for their photos and information.

Steve Reynolds is the current President of MLSSA and is a long-standing member of the Society. Steve is a keen diver, underwater explorer, photographer and is chief author of the Society's extensive back catalogue of newsletters and journals.

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