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Climate Change Update: Warmer Temperature Results To Sea Star Species Death

First Posted: May 16, 2016 07:43 AM EDT

Warmer temperature has been found to be hotter both before and during the outbreak of the wasting disease, a mysterious illness spread by the increased number of sea stars in the west coast of the United States. According to a recent study, the disease has resulted in significant death among a number of sea star species, noting symptoms that included lesions, arm loss, decrease in appetite, arm twisting and death.

The warmer temperature, in addition, was also found to be  related to a smaller scale of wasting events in the recent past. In a controlled experiment which is aimed at studying the warmer waters as the cause for the outbreaks, several sea stars were put in tanks with water having a similar temperature they were gathered in, as well as into tanks that are significantly warmer, Science Daily reported.

Sea stars in warmer temperature died of the wasting disease much faster compared to those placed in the cool tanks. According to the analysis, the organisms which were gathered from the cool ocean was put into the warm tanks with no acclimation. This means that the shock of an immediate change of temperature may have likely affected the survival rate and the organism's capacity to fight the virus.

Moreover, the study found that the cooler temperatures appeared to have helped out the sea stars, with the stars living around two times the capacity of those in the warm water. While the cold water sea stars later died of the disease, a few were found to have healed the lesions temporarily. The symptoms of the sea stars in the warmer water were observed to have developed faster and did not indicate any chances of healing.

Warmer temperature, therefore, slows down the development of wasting disease, since it was not the change in the temperature that affected the sea stars in the past experiments.  Although it is not clear yet how the temperature is affecting the virus causing the wasting disease, a warm ocean temperature appears like a possible cause for the unexpected spread of the outbreaks, according to Plos.

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