Arm Deflation in the Rare Thorny Sea Star, Poraniopsis inflatus (Asteroidea: Poraniidae), A Defensive Response to other Sea Stars?


  • Roland C. Anderson 2000 Minor E., #8, Seattle, Washington 98102
  • Ronald L. Shimek PO Box 4, Wilsall, Montana 59086



Thorny Sea Star, Poraniopsis inflatus, escape response, defensive reaction, predator-prey interaction


The Thorny Sea Star, Poraniopsis inflatus, is rare in the Northeastern Pacific. It lacks pedicellariae or other overt defenses for protection against other predatory sea stars. During an earlier study, a P. inflatus confronted by an asteroid-eating sea star was observed to exhibit a possible defensive reaction: "arm deflation." It was 15 years before another P. inflatus specimen could be obtained and that hypothesis confirmed by testing with individuals of 18 other sea-star species. Contact with individuals of four predatory sea-stars, Asterina miniata, Crossaster papposus, Solaster dawsoni, and Pycnopodia helianthoides, elicited the reaction in the P. inflatus. The specimen collapsed ("deflated") an arm closest to the predatory star, possibly by expelling coelomic fluid, exposing more of its embedded thorns (hence its common name) which may discourage other sea stars from attempting to eat it.