Mass sea star deaths off US west coast puzzle scientists

starfishhaveStarfish have been mysteriously dying by the millions in recent months along the US west coast, worrying biologists who say the sea creatures are key to the marine ecosystem. Scientists first started noticing the mass deaths in June 2013. Different types of starfish, also known as sea stars, were affected, from wild ones along the coast to those in captivity, according to Jonathan Sleeman, director of the US Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center. “The two species affected most are Pisaster ochraceus (purple sea star or ochre starfish) and Pycnopodia helianthoides (sunflower sea star),” he wrote in a statement in December. The sunflower sea star is considered among the largest starfish and can span more than a meter in diameter. The most commonly observed symptoms are white lesions on the arms of the sea star. The lesions spread rapidly, resulting in the loss of the arm. Within days, the infection consumes the creature’s entire body, and it dies. Entire populations have been wiped out in Puget Sound off the coast of Washington state, in the Salish Sea off Canada’s British Columbia as well as along the coast of California. The mortality rate is estimated at 95 percent. Scientists who have spent decades studying the local ecosystem have yet to identify the cause. “What we currently think is likely happening is that there is a pathogen, like a parasite or a virus or a bacteria, that is infecting the sea stars and that compromises in some way their immune system,” Pete Raimondi, chair of the department of ecology and evolutionary biology, at the University of California, Santa Cruz, told AFP. More


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4 Responses to Mass sea star deaths off US west coast puzzle scientists

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  2. Gio says:

    I had a saltwater aquarium for a while….. I’ve seen sea stars disintegrate because the water imbalance is off just a minimal amount on any number of indicators. Easy to see how Fukushima or some underwater seismic activity could cause this.

  3. Pingback: Mass sea star deaths off US west coast puzzle scientists | Gospel World News, Inc.

  4. They had better get to the bottom of this in a hurry – if it is connected to the Japanese nuclear meltdown it could become a heath hazard to all american s

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