information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Common sun star (Crossaster papposus)

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



A very distinctive sun star that grows up to 34 cm in diameter. The colour varies but is usually red, brown-red with white markings above, yellow-white below, often with beautiful patterns. It has 10-12 arms (rarely 8-16) and the whole surface of the animal is covered with small but distinct spines.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

All British and Irish coasts.

Global distribution



Found on sand, stones, mussel and oyster beds from the infralittoral fringe to 50 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Disc large, red, 10-12 tapering arms.
  • Marginal paxillae large, arranged in a single row.
  • Three to five furrow spines, adambulacral plates with series of 5-9 larger spines.
  • No pedicellariae.

Additional information

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Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Campbell, A., 1994. Seashores and shallow seas of Britain and Europe. London: Hamlyn.

  2. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  4. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  5. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  6. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.


This review can be cited as:

Wilson, E. 2008. Crossaster papposus Common sun star. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 25-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 17/04/2008