Thursday, November 7, 2013

Suffering starfish

Marine biologist and ecologists are trying to determine why a deadly syndrome known as "star wasting disease," which until now affected only small numbers of starfish, Is devastating the populations along the west coast of the U.S. The population in some tidal pools has dropped by up to 95%. The Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (a group of government agencies, universities, and non-profit groups) Is currently trying to determine the root cause, which they believe is an unknown pathogen. This week the Network will launch an extensive survey along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. The disease kills the starfish in a matter of days, beginning with white lesions on their arms that spread inward, causing them to lose their limbs, turn to slime, and disintegrate (SLIDESHOW AND VIDEO HERE). As Network researcher Melissa Miner describes, "Their tissue just melts away." Vancouver Aquarium biologist Jeff Marliave adds, “The sick ones tend to just fall apart in front of your eyes. An arm will actually break off and crawl away. They turn into goo.”

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