Thursday, 12 May 2016

Starfish Baby Boom Brings Hope to Population Turning to Goo

By Laura Geggel, Senior Writer | May 9, 2016 04:36pm ET

For the past two years, a mysterious wasting disease has devastated starfish living along the West Coast, turning countless individual animals into goo. But now, a record number of surviving starfish babies is giving some researchers reason for cautious optimism.

The Oregon coast currently has a thriving community of juvenile starfish (or sea stars), with some places seeing populations with as many as 300 times the typical number, researchers said. That's welcome news, as up to 90 percent of sea stars in Oregon showed signs of the deadly wasting disease from June to August 2014, reports a new study published May 4 in the journal PLOS ONE.

Starfish rising
The high starfish numbers don't mean the deadly disease is gone, however, the researchers said. Another round of the wasting illness could kill the juvenile sea stars, including the purple ochre (Pisaster ochraceus), known as a "keystone" species because of its influence on the marine ecosystem, the researchers said

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