Berenice Baca-Ceballos

San Francisco State University

“Rearing the Remarkable Brooding Six-Rayed Star Leptasterias”

Asteroid sea stars in the cryptic species complex Leptasterias use a remarkable mode of brood-fostering. These tiny intertidal stars have limited dispersal as they produce a small number of large, yolky eggs that develop with maternal protection. For about 2 months, 50-1500 embryos develop under the female stomach while she apparently forgoes feeding. Culturing Leptasterias embryos has proven to be extremely difficult as studies on the development of brood-caring sea stars are rare.
Here, broods collected from the field were reared using methods mimicking natural conditions with and without parental care. Rearing methods successfully produced juveniles in 12/12 clutches, apparently the first time in these species. However, during this study, a bizarre shift in hatching timing was witnessed where some embryos emerged as more fully formed juveniles. With daily observations, we now have first documentation of diet where juvenile Leptasterias were found to eat various foods, including, frozen squid, copepods, mussel, juvenile littorines, juvenile Lacuna, and newly settled barnacles.


My research focuses on the life history and reproductive behavior of a small six-rayed star Leptasterias. Successful rearing methods resulted in the first documentation of juvenile Leptasterias diet, growth rates, and pattern formation.

12 + 12 =