Diseased Starfish Disintegrating Along the West Coast

Categories: Environment, WTF?

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Wikimedia/TheMargue
Pretty ... pretty sick
Starfish -- the marine animal that is actually not a fish -- are mysteriously meeting their death along the West Coast in frequent numbers, and marine scientists are aren't sure who or what to blame.

According to the Press Democrat, mangled starfish are popping up from Alaska to Southern California, sickened by a disease that causes them to lose their arms and disintegrate.

"They essentially melt in front of you," Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab, told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

The starfish are reportedly dying from "sea star wasting disease," a sickness that causes white lesions to develop on the animals, causing them to turn into "goo." However, scientists do not know what's causing the disease. According to the newspaper, the disease has decimated about 95 percent of a particular starfish species living in tide pool populations along the West Coast, including San Francisco.

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Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring
A map of where this madness is happening
In September, starfish in an aquarium at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center in San Francisco reportedly died from wasting disease after water was pumped in from the ocean.

It's happened before, but never to this extent, scientists say; In 1983, wasting disease hit Southern California but remained localized. Typically, the disease affects only one species, Pisaster ochraceus -- the an orange-and-purple (pretty!) starfish that grows up to 20 inches wide and is a staple of West Coast tide pools.

As with any other ecological disruption, this could have a domino effect in the Ocean. According to the Associated Press, Starfish dine on mussels, so scientists worry that a collapse in the Pisaster population will allow mussels to multiply -- unchecked -- pushing out other species.

Steven Morgan, an environmental science professor at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has found emaciated sea stars on the rocks at Schoolhouse Beach north of Bodega Bay, but said he has no idea if wasting syndrome was the culprit.

"None of us had ever seen anything like this before," he told the AP.




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19 comments
Stan James
Stan James

Everybody is getting this one right...radiation was the first thought that came into my mind after reading this article!

tr9510888
tr9510888

Its happened before fukushima, but im sure radiation doesn't help any... 

Owen Minor
Owen Minor

Armchair liberal arts "scientists". Talk to a marine biologist about viral outbreaks that happen on the starfish population.

nottolate
nottolate

Fukushima radiation is tearing up the west coast and destroying everything in it's path.  Learn ways to protect yourself and your family and get calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium.

Jan Blum
Jan Blum

acidification of the ocean - this is just the first visible manifestation of what has been occurring for years now. Our food stock in the whole chain of line in the ocean is at risk.

SF Bites
SF Bites

the fallout continues...sad

Bonnie Blake
Bonnie Blake

Parasite like the one hitting the shrimp in S.C maybe? Gross how people pollute the water and then ask why.

Maya Lewis
Maya Lewis

Does this have something to do with the radiation from Fukushima?

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