Mystery Disease is Causing Thousands of Sea Stars' Arms to Crawl Away and Rip Off

February 3, 2014 2:52 PM

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Mystery Disease is Causing Thousands of Sea Stars' Arms to Crawl Away and Rip Off

A mysterious disease is leaving tens of thousands of starfish dead in the Pacific.

The illness reportedly causes the sea star’s arms to twist into knots, and then crawl in opposite directions until they rip off. Researchers are calling it the “sea star wasting syndrome,” and cases have been seen on both the east and the west coasts, in dozens of different species of starfish.

The current theory is that a boat carried a pathogen from elsewhere in the world — and it’s spreading. It appears to be concentrated around the Pacific, from Alaska to San Diego.

What’s most disastrous about this situation — aside from the disturbing imagery — is the impact it will have on our ocean’s ecosystem.

Starfish, or sea stars, are considered keystone species, because they have such a significant impact on “shaping the biodiversity of the seascape.”

Sea stars eat various sea predators, and their deaths could leave a major gap.

You can track the disease in real time on social media through the tag #sickstarfish, as diver Laura James is following the situation.

RYOT NOTE: Clearly starfish loosing limbs does bode implications for us all. Thankfully organizations like Oceana exist. They’re the only organization dedicate solely to protecting all the world’s oceans, as well as their inhabitants. Click on the Action Box above this story to learn more and Become the News!

Source: ryot.org

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