Central Coast starfish dying from brutal disease
November 4, 2013
Marine scientists have discovered a large number of starfish dead or dying along the California Coast from a disease that causes their arms to turn to mush and fall off, according to the University of Santa Cruz.
From Alaska to Santa Barbara, a keystone species of starfish has been afflicted with “sea star wasting disease.” In some areas, 95 percent of the starfish population has perished.
In September, scientists discovered starfish at Corallina Cove in Montana de Oro afflicted with the disease. If starfish are decimated from tide pools, mussel populations are expected to increase and crowd out other species.
At the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center aquarium in San Francisco, starfish contracted the disease and died after water was pumped in from the ocean.
In the early 80’s, starfish in Southern California were afflicted with the disease during an El Niño phenomenon which increases water temperatures. Starfish are more susceptible to bacterial infections in warmer waters.
However, water temperatures have been close to average along the West Coast this year. Scientists are continuing to research the disease and its causes.