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The Sydney Seastar Project assists in the identification of seastars (or starfish) encountered in the Sydney region (defined as between, Gosford to the north and Bundeena to the south) in depths to 30 metres.

The project provides up-to-date information on the seastars (starfish) occurring in the Sydney area.


Seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project introduction

Introduction to the seastars/starfish (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) of the Sydney region project.

Seastars (or starfish) are a distinctive group of invertebrate animals, often encountered intertidally and by divers. They are readily recognized by their stellate (star) shaped profiles with five or more tapering arms radiating from the central body, although some species have a more cushion-like pentagonal shape with arms reduced.

Seastars are also ecologically and commercially significant, as shown by the examples of the impact of the Crown-of-Thorns Starfish (Acanthaster planci) on the Great Barrier Reef, and the introduction of the Northern Pacific Seastar (Asterias amurensis) to parts of Australia.

They are classified with sea cucumbers, sea urchins, feather stars, brittle stars, basket stars and sea daisies in the phylum Echinodermata (from the Greek words for spiny skin). Characteristics these animals share include their basic body symmetry, an internal calcareous skeleton and a water vascular system composed of fluid filled canals that are often evident as external tube feet which are used for locomotion. However, body shape and other features separate seastars into the class Asteroidea. Brittle stars and basket stars (class Ophiuroidea) are similar but typically have a circular central body from which the arms are more strongly demarcated.

General information regarding seastars can be found at many internet websites, including the Californian Academy of Sciences Echinoderm Webpage, the University of California at Berkeley Introduction to Echinodermata site and the World Asteroidea database.

Specialist information on Australian seastars is available at the Australian Biological Resources Study Faunal Directory and there a number of regional guides providing information on southern Australian species and Indo-Pacific species. However, up-to-date information on the seastars occurring in the Sydney area, the most populated and one of the most highly visited parts of Australia, is scattered. Therefore, enquiries which are often received at the Australian Museum are sometimes difficult to answer easily.

This project aims to improve this situation by providing tools to aid in the identification of seastar species likely to be encountered in the Sydney region (defined here as between Gosford to the north and Bundeena to the south) in depths to 30 metres. The Australian Museum collection registration database was used to generate the initial list of species, specimens from the collection were also used to provide images and these were supplemented with field collections to obtain photographs of living animals.

A list of factsheets on species is provided below which links to additional information and images for each species.

These pages should be cited as: Keable, S.J., Springthorpe, R.T., Attwood, K.B., Murray, A. Stoddart, H. E. and Hegedus, A.D. 2015 onwards. Seastars/starfish (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) of the Sydney region.

For further details contact Dr Stephen Keable stephen.keable@austmus.gov.au


Seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project references cited.

Seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project references cited.

References used in Seastars of the Sydney region webpages:

Clark, A.M. (1950). A new species of sea-star from Norfolk Island. Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (12)3(77): 808-811 fig. 1 pls 11-12.

Clark, A.M. (1970). The name of the starfish, Anthenea acuta (Perrier), preoccupied. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 95(2): 157 pl. 6.

Clark, A.M. (1993). An index of names of recent Asteroidea-Part 2: Valvatida. pp. 187-366 in Jangoux, M. & Lawrence, J.M. (eds) Echinoderm Studies. Rotterdam: A.A. Balkema.

Clark, A.M. & Downey, M.E. (1992). Starfishes of the Atlantic. London: Natural History Museum and Chapman Hall 794 pp. 75 figs 113 pls.

Clark, A.M. & Rowe, F.W.E. (1971). Monograph of Shallow-water Indo-west Pacific Echinoderms. London: Trustees of the British Museum (Natural History) 238 pp. 100 figs 31 pls.

Clark, H.L. (1909). Scientific results of the trawling expedition of H.M.C.S. Thetis. Echinodermata. Mem. Aust. Mus. 4(11): 519-564 pls 47-58.

Clark, H.L. (1914). The echinoderms of the Western Australian Museum. Rec. W. Aust. Mus. 1(3): 132-173 fig. 1 pls 17-26.

Clark, H.L. (1916). I. Report on the sea-lilies, starfishes, brittle-stars and sea-urchins obtained by the F.I.S.Endeavour on the coasts of Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia. Endeavour Res. 4(1): 1-123 figs 1-11 pls 1-44.

Clark, H.L. (1923). Some echinoderms from West Australia. J. Linn. Soc. (Zool.) 35: 229-251 pl. 13.

Clark, H.L. (1928). The sea-lilies, sea-stars, brittle-stars and sea-urchins of the South Australian Museum. Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 3(4): 361-482 figs 108-142.

Clark, H.L. (1938). Echinoderms from Australia. An account of collections made in 1929 and 1932. Mem. Mus. Comp. Zool., Harv. Univ. 55: 1-596 figs 1-64 pls 1-28.

Clark, H.L. (1946). The echinoderm fauna of Australia. Its composition and its origin. Carnegie Inst. Wash. Publ.566: 1-567.

Coleman, H.L. (1911). Scientific results of the trawling expedition of H.M.C.S. Thetis. Echinodermata. Supplement. Mem. Aust. Mus. 4(14): 699-701 figs 123-125 pl. 83.

Dartnall, A.J. (1971). Australian sea stars of the genus Patiriella (Asteroidea: Asterinidae). Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 96(1): 39-49 fig. 1 pls 3-4.

de Loriol, P. (1891). Notes pour servir à l'étude des Echinodermes. III. Mém. Soc. Phys. Hist. Nat. Genève Suppl. 8: 1-31 pls 10-12.

Döderlein, L. (1915). Die Arten der Asteroiden-Gattung Anthenea Gray. Jahrb. Nassau. Ver. Naturkd. 68: 21-55 pls 3-11.

Döderlein, L. (1917). Die Asteriden der Siboga Expedition. I. Die Gattung Astropecten und ihre Stammesgeschichte. Siboga Exped. 46(a): 1-191 figs 1-20 pls 1-17.

Döderlein, L. (1920). Die Asteriden der Siboga Expedition. II. Die Gattung Luidia und ihre Stammesgeschichte. Siboga Exped. 46(b): 193-293 figs 1-5 pls 18-20.

Döderlein, L. (1926). Über Asteriden aus dem Museum von Stockholm. K. Sven. Vetensk.-Akad. Handl. (3)2(6): 3-22 pls 1-4.

Edgar, G.J. (1997). Australian Marine Life. Kew, Victoria: Reed Books, 544 pp.

Farquhar, H. (1898). A contribution to the history of New Zealand echinoderms. J. Linn. Soc. (Zool.)26: 186-198 pls 13-14.

Gray, J.E. (1840). A synopsis of the genera and species of the Class Hypostoma (Asterias, Linnaeus). Ann. Mag. Nat. Hist. (ns)6: 175-184, 275-290.

Gray, J.E. (1847). 2. Descriptions of some new genera and species of Asteriadae. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 12: 72-83.

Jangoux, M. 1985. Catalogue commenté des types d'Echinodermes actuels conservés dans les collections nationales suisses, suivi d'une notice sur la contribution de Louis Agassiz à la connaissance desEchinodermes actuels. Genève: Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle 67 pp. 11 pls.

John, D.D. (1948). Notes on Asteroidea in the British Museum (Natural History) 1. The species of Astropecten. Novit. Zool. 42(3): 485-508 pls 1-4.

Koehler, R. (1908). Description d'une Astérie nouvelle (Nepanthia Joubini) provenant du Cap Saint-Jacques (Cochinchine). Bull. Mus. Hist. Nat. 14: 232-235 figs 1-4.

Lamarck, J.B.P.A. de (1816). Stellerides. In Histoire Naturelle des Animaux sans Vertèbres. Paris: Verdière Vol. 2 1st Edn pp. 522-568.

Livingstone, A.A. (1933). Some genera and species of the Asterinidae. Rec. Aust. Mus. 19(1): 1-20 pls 1-5.

Marsh, L.M. (1976). Western Australian Asteroidea since H.L. Clark. Thalassia Jugosl. 12(1): 213-225 figs 1-2.

Marsh, L.M. (1991). Shallow water echinoderms of the Albany region, south-western Australia. pp. 439-482 in Wells, F.E., Walker, D.I., Kirkman, H. & Lethbridge, R. (eds) Proceedings of the Third International Marine Biological Workshop: The Marine Flora and Fauna of Albany, Western Australia. Perth: Western Australian Museum Vol. 2.

Möbius, K. (1859). Neue Seesterne des Hamburger und Kieler Museums. Hamburg: Nolte & Köhler 14 pp. 4 pls.

Müller, J. & Troschel, F.H. (1842). System der Asteriden. Braunschweig: Papier, Druck und Verlag 134 pp. 12 pls.

Müller, J. & Troschel, F.H. (1843). 1. Neue Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Asteriden. Arch. Naturgesch. 9(1): 113-131.

Müller, J. & Troschel, F.H. (1844). Beschreibung neuer Asteriden. Arch. Naturgesch. 10(1): 178-185.

O'Hara, T.D. (1998). Systematics and biology of Macquarie Island echinoderms. Mem. Mus. Vic. 57(2): 167-223, 4 figs, 5 pls.

O’Loughlin, P.M., Waters, J.M. & Roy, M.S. (2003). A molecular and morphological review of the asterinid, Patiriella gunnii (Gray) (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Mem. Mus. Vic. 60(2):161-195.

O’Loughlin, P.M. & Waters, J.M. (2004). A molecular and morphological revision of genera of Asterinidae (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Mem. Mus. Vic. 61(1):1-40.

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Perrier, E. (1875). Révision de la Collection de Stellérides du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris. Paris: C. Reinwald et Cie 384 pp.

Perrier, E. (1876). Révision de la Collection de Stellérides du Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris. Arch. Zool. Exp. Gen. 5: 1-104, 209-304.

Perrier, E. (1891). Mission Scientifique du Cap Horn. 1882-1883. Zoologie. Echinodermes. Pt I. Stellerides. Paris: Gauthier-Villars et Fils Vol. 4 198 pp. 13 pls.

Rowe, F.W.E. (1977). A new family of Asteroidea (Echinodermata), with the description of five new species and one new subspecies of Asterodiscides. Rec. Aust. Mus. 31(5): 187-233 figs 1-5.

Rowe, F.W.E. (1985). Six new species of Asterodiscides A.M. Clark (Echinodermata: Asteroidea), with a discussion of the origin and general distribution of the Asterodiscididae and other 'amphi-Pacific' echinoderms. Bull. Mus. Natl. Hist. Nat. (4)7(A,3): 531-577 fig. 1 pls 1-6.

Rowe, F.W.E. (1989). Nine new deep-water species of Echinodermata from Norfolk Island and Wanganella Bank, northeastern Tasman Sea, with a checklist of the echinoderm fauna. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 111(4): 257-291 12 figs 1 table.

Rowe, F.W.E. & Albertson, E.L. (1987a). A new species in the echinasterid genus Echinaster Müller and Troschel, 1840 (Echinodermata: Asteroidea) from southeastern Australia and Norfolk Island. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W.s 109(3): 195-202 figs 1-4.

Rowe, F.W.E. & Albertson, E.L. (1987b). The echinoderm genus Henricia Gray, 1840 (Asteroidea: Echinasteridae) in southern and southeastern Australian waters, with the description of a new species. Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 109(3): 183-194 figs 1-5.

Rowe, F.W.E. & Albertson, E.L. (1988). A new genus and four new species in the family Echinasteridae (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). Proc. Linn. Soc. N.S.W. 110(1): 83-100 figs 1-10.

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Rowe, F.W.E. & Marsh, L.M. (1982). 6. A revision of the asterinid genus Nepanthia Gray, 1840 (Echinodermata: Asteroidea), with the description of three new species. Aust. Mus. Mem. 16: 89-120 figs 1-6.

Rowe, F.W.E. & Pawson, D.L. (1977). A catalogue of echinoderm type-specimens in the Australian Museum, Sydney. Rec. Aust. Mus. 30(14): 337-364.

Shepherd, S.A. (1967a). A review of the starfish genus Nectria (Asteroidea: Goniasteridae). Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 15(3): 463-482 figs 1-4

Shepherd, S.A. (1967b). A revision of the starfish genus Uniophora (Asteroidea: Asteriidae). Trans. R. Soc. S. Aust. 91: 3-14 figs 1-3 pl. 1.

Shepherd, S.A. (1968). The shallow-water echinoderm fauna of South Australia. 1. The asteroids. Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 14(4): 729-756.

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Town, J.C. (1979). General distribution and dispersal of the genus Astrostole Fisher, 1923 (Echinodermata: Asteroidea). J. R. Soc. N.Z. 9(4): 385-395 figs 1-3.

Verrill, A.E. (1867). Notes on the Radiata in the Museum of Yale College with descriptions of new genera and species. Trans. Conn. Acad. Arts Sci. 1(2): 247-351.

Zeidler, W. & Rowe, F.W.E. (1986). A revision of the southern Australian starfish genus Nectria (Asteroidea: Oreasteridae), with the description of a new species. Rec. S. Aust. Mus. 19(9): 117-138 figs 1-14.

Zeidler, W. & Shepherd, S.A. (1982). Sea-stars (Class Asteroidea). pp. 400-418 7 figs pl. 30(2) in Shepherd, S.A. & Thomas, I.M. (eds) Marine Invertebrates of Southern Australia. Part 1. Adelaide: South Australian Government.


Seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project, acknowledgements

The following people assisted in producing these webpages.

Ms Adrienne Gatt took most of the images of preserved specimens.

Dr Kelly Merrin helped with the initial planning of the project, in the field and in obtaining information from the literature.

Information about species distributions beyond the Sydney region, as well as taxonomic and reference information was largely obtained from the Australian Biological Resources Study Faunal Directory which was originally compiled by Dr Frank Rowe and Ms Jenny Gates, Australian Museum, in 1995 and updated by Dr Tim O'Hara, Museum Victoria, in 2001.

Dr Frank Rowe commented on an early draft of the web pages.

Mr Ray Corcoran reformatted the original text and images to produce draft web pages.

Ms Jen Cork provided technical advice to make the web pages available.


Acronyms for institutions cited in the seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project

Seastars/starfish of the Sydney region project.

AM Australian Museum, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

ANSP Academy of Natural Sciences, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

BITU Department of Biology, Faculty of Science, Toyama University, Toyama, Japan

BMNH Natural History Museum (formerly British Museum (Natural History)), London, England

BPBM Bernice P. Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

CAS California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California, USA

CAS(SU) Stanford University Collections in California Academy of Sciences, California, USA

CMNZ Canterbury Museum, Christchurch, New Zealand

COM Colombo Museum, Colombo, Sri Lanka

CSTIU Faculty of Science, University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

GMNH Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle, Genève, Switzerland

IM Indian Museum, Calcutta, India

IOAN Shirshov Institute of Oceanography, Academy of Sciences, Moscow, Russia

KIUJ Kyusu University, Fukuoka, Japan

MCZ Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

MGH Museum Godeffroy, Hamburg (now in ZMH), Germany

MNH Musei Nationalis Hungarici, Budapest, Hungary

MNHP Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris, France

MZUT Museo e Instituto di Zoologia Sistematica dell'Università di Torino, Turin, Italy

NAP Institute of Zoology, Academia Sinica (formerly National Academy of Peiping), Beijing, People's Republic of China

NHM Naturhistorisches Museum, Bern, Switzerland

NHMW Natural History Museum, Vienna, Austria (= Naturhistorisches Museum, Wien, Austria) (= NHMV, VNHM, ZMV)

NHRM Naturhistoriska Riksmuseet, Stockholm, Sweden (= NHRS, NRMS, NRS)

NMNZ National Museum of New Zealand (formerly DMNZ), Wellington, New Zealand

NMV Museum of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia (official acronym for Museum Victoria; see also MV)<

NSMT National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo (formly National Science Museum (Natural History), Tokyo, Japan)

NTM Museum and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory, Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

NZOI New Zealand Oceanographic Institute, Wellington, New Zealand

OMNH Osaka Museum of Natural History, Osaka, Japan

OMNZ Otago Museum, Otago, New Zealand

QM Queensland Museum, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

QVM Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

QVMS Queen Victoria Memorial Museum, Salisbury, Zimbabwe

RIB Institut Royal des Sciences Naturelles de Belgique, Bruxelles, Belgium

RMNH Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum (formerly Rijksmuseum van Natuurlijke Historie), Leiden, Netherlands

SAM South African Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

SAMA South Australian Museum, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

SMF Naturmuseum und Forschungsinstitut, Senckenberg, Frankfurt am Main, German

SMNH Saskatchewan Museum of Natural History, USA

SMNS Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde, Stuttgart, German

TIU Tokyo Imperial University, Tokyo, Japan

TM Transvaal Museum, Pretoria, South Africa

TMAG/TMH Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart, Tasmania

USCP University of San Carlos, Cebu City, Philippines

USNM US National Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC, USA

UZMO Zoologisches Museum Universitäts Oslo, Oslo, Norway

VMM Vanderbilt Marine Museum, Long Island, New York, USA

VUW Victoria University, Wellington, New Zealand (see also VUC)<

WAM Western Australian Museum, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

ZFMK Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum 'Alexander Koenig', Bonn, Germany

ZIUL Zoologisches Institut der Universität, Leipzig, Germany

ZIUS Universitets Stockholm, Sweden

ZIUT Department of Zoology, Faculty of Science, University of Tokyo, Japan

ZIUU Uppsala Universitets Zoologiska Museum, Uppsala, Sweden

ZMA Zoölogisch Museum, Universiteit van Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (collection now housed at Nationaal Natuurhistorisch Museum, Leiden, The Netherlands)

ZMB Museum für Naturkunde an der Universität Humbolt zu Berlin, Berlin, Germany

ZMG Zoologisches Museum, Göttingen, Germany

ZMH Zoologisches Museum Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany

ZMLU Universitets Lund, Lund, Sweden

ZMUC Zoological Museum, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

ZSM Zoologische Staatssammlung des Bayerischen Staates, München, Germany



Discover Sydney Seastars

23 Fact Sheets in this section