A wasting disease is destroying sea star populations along the Pacific coast.
Starfish babies along the coast of California had been dying off at an astonishing rate lately, but scientists say they see evidence of a rebound.
A deadly virus had been wreaking havoc on starfish populations along the Pacific coast, killing millions of starfish, according to an Oregon State University statement.
Fortunately, scientists have observed an unprecedented number of juvenile sea stars off the Oregon coast in recent months, although that doesn’t mean the sea star wasting disease epidemic is over.
Still, it’s an encouraging sign indicating the species is quite resilient in the face of adversity. A huge number of juveniles were found anchored to rocks along the coastline.
The question is whether they can survive into adulthood before being killed by the disease. Scientists believe that between 80 and 99 percent of purple sea stars were killed by this wasting disease in 2014 and 2015.
Scientists aren’t sure where this disease comes from, and haven’t found any link between this disease and rising temperatures in the ocean.
“When we looked at the settlement of the larval sea stars on rocks in 2014 during the epidemic, it was the same or maybe even a bit lower than previous years,” said Bruce Menge, the Wayne and Gladys Valley Professor of Marine Biology at Oregon State University and lead author on the study. “But a few months later, the number of juveniles was off the charts – higher than we’d ever seen – as much as 300 times normal.”
“The sea temperatures were warmer when the outbreak first began,” he said, “but Oregon wasn’t affected as early as other parts of the West Coast, and the outbreak reached its peak here when the sea temperature plummeted and was actually cooler than normal.”