Fact Check

Is This Phallic-Looking Starfish for Real?

An image of the purported echinoderm periodically goes viral on social media.

Published Feb 16, 2023

A species of starfish (or sea star) has arms that, at least occasionally, look like penises.

On Feb. 16, 2023, an photo post in the subreddit r/Damnthatsinteresting went viral despite a somewhat innocuous title: "It's an Australian sea star called a Choriaster."

The photograph is frequently shared on reddit and other social media posts. It has been shared, among other places, in the subreddits r/mildypenis, r/intentionallypenis, and r/oddlyarousing. On Twitter, as just one example, the same image was tweeted by an account named Phallic Science:

Evidently some internet travelers feel as though this animal looks like it possesses human penises for arms. 

The creature is indeed real. Its scientific name is Choriaster granulatus and it is commonly referred to as a granulated sea star. While they can be found in Australia, they have a wide distribution across the Indo-Pacific region. 

For example, these Choriaster images come from Micronesia: 

Because Choriaster granulatus is a real animal that may, at times, look multi-phallic, the claim is "True."

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.