Scientists Plagued by 'Star Wasting Disease': Turns West Coast Starfish into 'Goo' (Video)
(Photo : Dr. Steve Lonhart, NOAA MBNMS)
Starfish across the West Coast are dying, and scientists are struggling to find out why.
According to health officials, it appears that a lesion-causing disease is literally starving these sea-creatures and forcing them to waste away and dissolve.
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Sea stars, as this type of starfish is more commonly referred to, have been found dead in West Coast tide pools as far north as Alaska and south down to Orange County, Calif. At least 10 species of star fish have been reported dead from this so-called wasting disease, as reported via researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.
The Press Democrat reports that in some tide pools, as much as 95 percent of the sea star population has been found dead and mistaken for a puddle of "goo" when residents passed by. As the creatures begin to disintegrate, the lesions on their bodies from the disease spread and cause their arms to fall off and waste away.
"They essentially melt in front of you," Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UC Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab said, via the news organization. "We've never seen it at this scale up and down the coast."
This is not the first outbreak to occur among the sea stars. It's noted that back in 1983-84, this health issue also hit the species hard. However, this year's attack seems to be progressively worse than those previously noted.
At this time, though the cause of this wasting event is still unknown, many researchers believe that a multi-institutional effort to identify pathogens could help and is currently underway.
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Want to learn more about the video wasting disease? Check out this video, courtesy of YouTube.