Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Dissolving Sea Stars Reveal a Damaged Ocean

Lynn Wilson, Kaplan University and SeaTrust Institute | June 06, 2015 01:25am ET

Lynn Wilson, is Academic Department Chair for Public Administration at Kaplan University and founder and CEO of the SeaTrust Institute. A science journalist and academic author, Wilson is also a delegate for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other United Nations regimes, a reviewer for the U.S. National Institutes of Health and the IPCC, and an active researcher with projects in Africa and the Pacific Islands. She contributed this article to Live Science's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

On a remote Pacific Northwest beach, the intertidal world reveals itself to the air breathers. Mussels and gooseneck barnacles fasten to exposed rocks that shelter the apex predators: ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus). But something is wrong. White spots spread across the stars' disintegrating arms, and instead of regrowing the damaged appendages as sea stars often do, the entire animal rapidly dissolves into a mass of goo. 

First noticed in Washington state in 2013, "sea star wasting disease" reached alarming proportions by July 2014, its cause unknown — even though the disease was first identified in 1979.

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