Widespread starfish deaths reported on West Coast

Lonely Planet Images/getty imagesStarfish along the West Coast are being stricken with a mysterious disease.

Lonely Planet Images/getty imagesStarfish along the West Coast are being stricken with a mysterious disease.

Marine scientists are finding a large number of dead starfish along the West Coast stricken with a disease that causes the creatures to lose their arms and disintegrate.

The starfish are dying from “sea star wasting disease,” an affliction that causes white lesions to develop, which can spread and turn the animals into “goo.” The disease has killed up to 95 percent of a particular species of sea star in some tide pool populations.

“They essentially melt in front of you,” Pete Raimondi, chairman of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at University of California, Santa Cruz's Long Marine Lab, told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

Even starfish in an aquarium at the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary visitor center in San Francisco died from wasting disease after water was pumped in from the ocean in September.

Sampling has found the disease in starfish from Alaska to Southern California, according to a map on the marine lab's website.

Raimondi says wasting disease has never been as widespread as researchers are finding now.

In 1983-84, wasting disease hit Southern California but remained localized.

The disease usually affects one species, Pisaster ochraceus, an orange and purple starfish that grows up to 20 inches wide and is a staple of West Coast tide pools.

The starfish dine on mussels, so scientists worry that a collapse in the Pisaster population will allow mussels to multiply unchecked, crowding out other species.

Steven Morgan, an environmental science professor at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has found emaciated sea stars on the rocks at Schoolhouse Beach north of Bodega Bay, but was unsure if wasting syndrome was the culprit.

Still, Morgan found the starfish deaths a “strange anomaly.”

“None of us had ever seen anything like this before,” he said.CaliforniaCalifornia Newsstarfish

Just Posted

Pregnant women are in the high-risk category currently prioritized for booster shots in San Francisco. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Inoculations for immunosuppressed individuals are recommended in the second trimester

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

The Science Hall at the City College of San Francisco Ocean campus is pictured on Jan. 14. The Democrats’ Build Back Better bill would enable free community college nationwide, but CCSF is already tuition-free for all San Francisco residents. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
What Biden’s Build Back Better bill would mean for San Franciscans

Not much compared to other places — because The City already provides several key features

A directional sign at Google in Mountain View, Calif., on Oct. 20, 2020. Workers at Google and Amazon are demanding their companies pull out of Project Nimbus, a $1.2 billion contract to provide cloud services for the Israeli military and government. (Laura Morton/The New York Times)
Google and Amazon employees criticize $1.2 billion cloud services contract with Israel

‘We can create a world in which tech companies can thrive without doing harm’

Most Read