JUL 07, 2017 07:26 AM PDT

Why are all the sea stars dying?


Scientists estimate that tens to hundreds of millions of sea stars have died off within the last several years, ranging from Alaska all the way to Mexico. But why? It's all due to what's called sea-star wasting disease. The tell-tale sign of the disease is a pile of "white goo" which is the deteriorated remains of the animal; other times you'll see the effects in the form of a wasted-away arm nowhere near the rest of the anima's body, explains Ben Miner, Associate Professor of Biology at Western Washington University. In the beginning of the disease, a sea star will exhibit white lesions all over its body which will eat away at the organism, killing it within a matter of days.

Miner says that he and colleagues working on the sea stars have yet to identify the cause of the disease. In his research he is responsible for collecting tissue samples which he then sends off to other laboratories to do further analysis including DNA sequencing or tissue composition analysis. The current theory is that the disease is caused by a densovirus which makes sea stars susceptible to attack by microorganisms. The fear is, says Miner, that the virus will affect enough mature adults that the reproducing population will be irreversibly reduced, leaving too few juveniles to be able to repopulate sea star communities. He and other researchers are committed to learning more about the virus in hopes of saving sea stars in our oceans.
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
NOV 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 20, 2019
These Animals Give Birth to the Largest Babies in the World
Moms everywhere will tell you all about the excruciating labor pains that come along with delivering a baby, but in the animal kingdom, many newborns are s...
NOV 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 20, 2019
How a Venus Flytrap Works
Most people think of plants as being at the bottom of the food chain, but the Venus Flytrap defies this oversimplified way of thinking by devouring meat. W...
NOV 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 20, 2019
Why Do Camels Have Humps?
Camels are predominantly known for the humps that appear on their backs, and believe it or not, those humps are filled with body fat. Some camels sport jus...
NOV 20, 2019
Earth & The Environment
NOV 20, 2019
Pesticides Plague Great Barrier Reef Waterways
Based on parameters set by the Australian and Queensland Governments, a significant pesticide reduction target for waters entering for the Great Barrier Re...
NOV 20, 2019
Plants & Animals
NOV 20, 2019
Have You Heard of the World's Most Trafficked Animal?
If you were asked what the world’s most trafficked animal was, what would you say? If you answered pangolin, then you’d be correct. Most people...
NOV 20, 2019
Space & Astronomy
NOV 20, 2019
Starlink Aims to Provide Cutting-Edge Worldwide Internet Access
Almost everyone has heard by now that Elon Musk wants to launch well over 40,000 new satellites into space to deliver high-speed and low-latency internet t...
Loading Comments...