Stars Wasting

July 24, 2015

seastarBright sunshine and warm this Friday on California’s north coast, and we’re facing similar weather conditions for the foreseen future.
No rain for a long spell…

Apparently, the ‘wasting disease‘ for sea stars (star fish) continues (Jana Hennessy, a master’s student at HSU): ‘“I know our local beach-goers and tide-poolers have noticed the decline in the once abundant purple and orange stars along our coast.”

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

Hennessy continues (via Lost Coast Outpost): ‘“This mass extinction is serious for more than just beauty reasons. Pisaster is a keystone predator and the heavy decline will negatively affect the [marine] community structure, creating a weakened system.”
She has a full podcast interview this week on the sea star situation at KHUM.

The Pisaster ochraceus of which Hennessy notes has been greatly affected by the rampant disease — some background from UC Santa Cruz:

Sea star wasting syndrome is a general description of a set of symptoms that are found in sea stars.
Typically, lesions appear in the ectoderm followed by decay of tissue surrounding the lesions, which leads to eventual fragmentation of the body and death.
A deflated appearance can precede other morphological signs of the disease.
All of these symptoms are also associated with ordinary attributes of unhealthy stars and can arise when an individual is stranded too high in the intertidal zone (for example) and simply desiccates.
“True” wasting disease will be present in individuals that are found in suitable habitat, often in the midst of other individuals that might also be affected.
The progression of wasting disease can be rapid, leading to death within a few days, and its effects can be devastating on sea star populations.
The proximal cause of the disease, when pathological studies have been done, is typically a bacterium (vibrio), although a recent wasting event on the east coast of the United States has been attributed to a virus.

And a warming Pacific Ocean doesn’t help the matter…

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