Blue starfish

(Linckia laevigata)




Facts about this animal

The blue starfish has a bright blue or light blue body, more seldom green, pink or yellow, and there are also red Linckia, which are still widely referred to as L. multifora (see under “Did you know”). The animals get their colour from a blue pigment called linckiacyanin and some accessory yellow carotenoids. Depending on the exact ratio and combination of pigments in the star, the colours of the starfish can vary. Although certain colour variations are more common in some areas than others, it is not clear whether there are any behavioural or ecological differences among sea stars that have these different colours.

Linckiahas 5 cylindrical arms with rounded tip and it may grow up to 30-40 cm in diameter.

The blue starfish is particularly common in shallow water, but is found as deep as 50 m. Little is really known about the exact feeding behaviour or preferences of these animals in the wild, maybe because the species is largely nocturnal. Based on anecdotal evidence from aquaria, they are generally thought to be primarily opportunistic scavengers, perhaps being even saprophytic, but as also been observed to apparently feed on algae and microbial films as a non-selective surface grazer.

The sexes appear to be separate in Linckia, and the animals spawn gametes freely into the water above them. If a male and female happen to spawn in close proximity to one another, the fertilized eggs develop into feeding larvae within a couple of days. These larvae spend about 28-30 days in the water column before settling onto a hard surface on the reef and metamorphosing into a tiny version of the adult star.

The blue starfish are chemically defended from many fish predators as they possess chemical defence compounds called saponins.

Did you know?
that, using molecular genetic techniques, the blue starfish, Linckia laevigata and the red starfish, Linckia multifora turned out to apparently be the same species? Despite the differences between these two morphologically distinct groups - individuals can be reliably distinguished by their colour and colour pattern, number of madreporites and ratio of arm length to breadth - no evidence was found that the red and blue starfish were genetically isolated from one another.


Name (Scientific) Linckia laevigata
Name (English) Blue starfish
Name (French) Etoile de mer bleue
Name (German) Blaue Seestern
Name (Spanish) Estrella de mar azul
CITES Status Not listed
CMS Status Not listed



Photo Copyright by
David R. Burdick



Range Tropical Indo-Pacific
Habitat Shallow, multilevelled areas in upper zones of sunny reefs and reef fringes.
Wild population Unknown, but it is one of the most common and obvious sea stars on many Indo-pacific reefs although some populations declined significantly due to harvesting for pet trade and by tourists.
Zoo population Unknown, but often kept by private aquarists.

In the Zoo

Blue starfish


How this animal should be transported

Blue starfish are notoriously delicate shippers, and post-transport mortality is rather high. Therefore, it is exceptionally important to acclimate these animals carefully.

For air transport, Container Note 51 of the IATA Live Animals Regulations should be followed.


Find this animal on ZooLex


Photo Copyright by
David R. Burdick

Why do zoos keep this animal

Zoos and aquariums keep blue star fish for educational reasons as part of their efforts to familiarise visitors with invertebrate biodiversity. Sea stars may be kept in touch pools where they will come into close contact with visitors and may play a role as ambassadors for marine and coastal conservation.