Slideshow: Sea Stars Dying in Mysterious Plague

Sea stars ... are succumbing to an unknown, gruesome disease. Animals waste away, their bodies falling apart and arms ripping themselves off. This time-lapse video from the Vancouver Aquarium shows a sick sea star losing its arms, one symptom of the disease in the wild. Wasting syndrome was not confirmed in this individual.

The massive outbreak has researchers baffled,...

“It comes in quickly, hits hard, and spreads far,”... [emphasis mine]

A plague is wiping out sea stars off of US East and West coasts.

Tags: Sea Star Plague

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The sea star plague may signal future serious marine plagues, as our oceans die from excess acidity and heat.

As climate warms, more outbreaks of disease for sea life

... the die-off may be the most extensive marine-disease event ever documented. Few experts believe it will be the last. “The most dire interpretation of the sea-star event is that it could just be the first in a wave of similar events,”...

... from work with corals and eelgrass, dolphins, seals and fish, researchers increasingly are finding that climate change is likely to affect disease susceptibility and transmission in a host of important ways.

“A warming world can cause disease to increase, both by compromising the host and because a lot of microorganisms become more virulent or are happier at warmer temperatures.”

Many pathogens tend to get knocked back by cold winters. But as the marine world continues to warm, their survivability and suitable habitat just expands.

“Any organism that is going to be under more stress or has fewer numbers or lower genetic diversity is going to be more highly susceptible,” Burge said.

One place where that’s already true is the Caribbean, where disease has hit more than two-thirds of coral reefs.

“There’s been a big uptick in these infectious diseases that are affecting coral, and the impacts are really huge,”...

Sometimes it isn’t a weakened host that’s the problem, but a more virulent bug.

Researchers have seen some relationship between the starfish outbreak and warm waters. But the disease hit Oregon when waters were cool and spread into Alaska just as summer turned to fall.

Menge, for one, suspects acidification may have played a role, because the death of sea stars in Oregon often corresponded to times when ... waters ... are more sour... [emphasis mine]

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