Dog Virus and Sea Stars

November 17, 2014

seastarBright and cool this late afternoon, but without DST, nighttime seems to come quick, getting-darker faster.

End-of-a-terrible mystery news: The “melting,” or “wasting” disease horribly killing sea stars — or ‘star fish‘ — along the West Coast, including right here in Humboldt County, is apparently caused by a type of parvovirus, bad shit usually found in the stomachs of  unvaccinated dogs.

(Illustration: ‘A common starfish on Trinidad State Beach,‘ found here).

The last 18 months, the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SSWS) has caused the largest die-off of sea stars ever recorded along the Pacific shoreline from Canada to San Diego — the disease is pretty rapid, attacks the immune system somehow: “As the tissue dies, they often times will lose arms and then waste away. They disintegrate.”
Last summer, 87 percent of sites surveyed by researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, revealed had high levels of wasting.
Maybe now they’ve figured out the culprit — another freakin’ virus.
Today from National Geographic:

The virus, dubbed the sea star-associated densovirus, is also quite common.  “It’s been around for 70 years,” said Hewson, and “it’s probably present all over the world.”
Museum specimens from the 1940s have tested positive for the virus, and it lurks in ocean sediments and in seawater. It has even been found in sea star relatives like sea urchins and sea cucumbers.
Urchins and cucumbers seemed to have escaped the ill effects of the virus until now. But in recent weeks, reports have started to come in that they too are dying along beaches in the Pacific Northwest, Hewson said.
Why such a pervasive virus is suddenly killing millions of animals is still up for debate.
“We’ve seen big outbreaks in sea stars before,” said Pete Raimondi, a marine ecologist with the University of California, Santa Cruz, earlier this year, “but they’ve been very regional.”
This current outbreak stretches from southern Alaska down through Canada and the U.S. West Coast, into Baja California.
Previous events were relegated to one or two species, but the virus is now infecting 20.

Despite knowing the cause of the die-off, no one can stop it: “We can’t quarantine, we can’t effectively cull, and we can’t vaccinate,” said Drew Harvell, a marine ecologist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in an interview earlier this year.
Hopefully, the disease/syndrome will play itself out — supposedly right now, that’s all can be done.


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