Bat stars are easy to spot, because they are bright red or orange. Although they look like pillows, bat stars are covered with tough skin. They have hundreds of feet, light-sensing eyes at the end of their arms, and stomachs that can be pushed outside their body!
Although bat stars look like they sit still all of the time, they actually move around a lot, just very slowly at a speed of a few inches an hour. However, this speed is fast when the whole tide pool world of a bat star might be only 10 feet wide. They can even do flips to move forward.
They move by creeping around on top of hundreds of tube feet that push water in and out to move the bat star forward. The tube feet have suckers that stick to rocks and pry open shellfish prey.
When bat stars catch a prey animal, they push their stomachs outside of their bodies to digest the prey.
If a bat star loses an arm in accident, a whole new bat star can grow from the missing arm.
At high tide, bat stars move slowly all over the rocky floor of the ocean. When low tide comes, they move back into a deep pool where they can stay underwater or they hide between rocks.
Bat stars typically live in deep tide pools that are exposed only at the lowest tides. You may also find bat stars in other places besides tide pools—for example, on wooden poles that support fishing wharves.
We took the bat star photograph above in shallow waters near Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California, a town located about halfway between Los Angeles and California. The bat star had found a comfortable spot beneath floating fronds of kelp. About 20 feet away, a tow boat was docked.
Most bat stars have five arms, but some have four, six, seven, eight, or even nine arms. It is exciting to find a lucky bat star with more or less than five arms.
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Designed and written by Sherry Weaver Smith, last modified 3/2002.