Purple sun star (Solaster endeca)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Solaster endeca is a fairly large species up to 40 cm in diameter, although usually observed at approximately 20 cm. This species has 9-10 tapering arms (occasionally 7-13) set around a large disc. Its dorsal surface is supported by closely packed skeletal plates, which posess close-set, short paxillae that further bear spinelets (small, movable projections). It also bears two rows of marginal paxillae with the upper smaller than the lower. It is variable in colouration: dirty cream, orangey-red to bright pink-purple dorsally with a pale orange underside. The tips of the arms are commonly turned upwards to reveal the underside and two rows of tube feet (podium) with sucking discs. The adambulacral plates (series of calcareous plates flanking the ambulacral furrow), with a series of 2-3 spines (ambulacral furrow spines) also bear rows of 6-8 shorter spines.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Frequently recorded on the north and west coasts of Britain and Ireland. Further records span from the Shetlands down to Northumberland.

Global distribution



This species can be found on muddy gravel or silty rocks in sheltered or moderately exposed conditions, from the infralittoral fringe to 500 m depth.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Can be up to 40 cm in diameter, commonly 20 cm.
  • It has 9-10 long tappering arms (occasionally 7-13).
  • Close-set spiny surface.
  • Colour variable from bright pink-purple to orangey-red dorsally with pale orange undersides.

Additional information

Solaster endeca breeds during March-April with direct development and, therefore, has no pelagic stage. It is a voracious predator on other Echinoderm species often eating animals nearly as large as itself (Gibson et al., 2001). It is the only British starfish with as many arms as Crossaster papposus (Picton, 1993), however, Solaster endeca has a much smoother appearance.


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  1. Centre for Environmental Data and Recording, 2018. Ulster Museum Marine Surveys of Northern Ireland Coastal Waters. Occurrence dataset https://www.nmni.com/CEDaR/CEDaR-Centre-for-Environmental-Data-and-Recording.aspx accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  3. Manx Biological Recording Partnership, 2018. Isle of Man historical wildlife records 1990 to 1994. Occurrence dataset:https://doi.org/10.15468/aru16v accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  4. Nature Locator, 2017. Sealife Tracker. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/qgk3pg accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  5. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  6. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-28


This review can be cited as:

Rowley, S.J. 2007. Solaster endeca Purple sun star. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 28-05-2024]. Available from: https://marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/2189

Last Updated: 17/01/2007