Have you heard of or encountered this sea star?
Protoreaster nodosus, commonly known as the horned sea star or chocolate chip sea star is a species of sea star found in the warm, shallow waters of the Indo-Pacific region like in the Philippines.
The species possess rows of spines or “horns”; black conical points arranged in a single row, radially on the dorsal side, which may erode and become blunt. These dark protrusions are used to scare away possible predators, by looking frightening or dangerous. On the ventral side, tube feet, purple in color (or pale, transparent pink), are arranged in rows on each arm. Most horned sea stars found are a roughly rigid five-pointed star-shape with tapering arms to the end, although there are anomalies like four or six-armed specimens; they may grow up to 30 cm (12 in) in diameter. The sea stars are usually colored in shades of red or brown, but can be light tan, the color of cookie dough. This appearance, combined with the small horns on its dorsal side, give the sea star a look similar to that of a bumpy cookie.
Other commensal animals like shrimps, tiny brittle stars and even juvenile filefish can be found on the surfaces of this sea star. It can be attributed to its protective nature, since there are few predators that would are eat this animal.
This horned sea star is not always found in every site but it could be in a colony in some areas. We found this in the midst of sandy slope over some soft corals in Sarangani Bay!