Cushion Star - Oceana

Corals and Other Invertebrates

Cushion Star

Culcita novaeguineae


Tropical central and western Pacific and Indian oceans


Coral reefs

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator and scavenger


Class Asteroidea (sea stars)


The cushion star, like all sea stars, moves on a system of tube feet, so called because they are operated by a hydraulic system controlled by the main body. They are known to prey on corals and other sedentary animals, as well as decaying organic matter. They feed by inverting their entire stomach, through the mouth, and digesting the soft tissue off of a coral’s skeleton or the meat out of a clam, right in the open environment, and sucking down the available nutrients. Cushion stars reproduce through a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where several females release eggs and several males release sperm into the water column above the sand, all at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become successfully fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators near the reef.

Colors vary widely within this species, from orange to red to brown to green. People do not eat cushion stars, but some are collected to be dried and sold in tourist shops. The impact that this activity has on cushion star populations is unknown. Scientists do not have sufficient data to determine this species’ population trends, but as residents on coral reefs, human induced changes to this vulnerable ecosystem may also threaten the cushion star and other species.

Engage Youth with Sailors for the Sea

Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.

Kids Environmental Lesson Plans