Aside from the alarming loss of sea stars, their disappearance has larger, ongoing implications for the marine ecosystem, Gehman said. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome September 21, 2015 Excerpts from www.seastarwasting.org “Sea stars along much of the North American Pacific coast are dying in great numbers from a mysterious wasting syndrome. Similar die-offs have occurred before in the 1970s, 80s, and the 90s, but never before at this magnitude and over such a wide geographic area.… The condition is technically known as sea star wasting disease or as sea star wasting syndrome. Sea stars are dying off at dramatic rates across the West Coast from Baja California in Mexico to Alaska. However, a coast-wide scale, pre-outbreak sea star density was positively correlated with pre-outbreak sea star density. The wasting disease that is affecting sea stars also is not specific to one species: more than 20 sea star species have been affected so far. It then rapidly began to lay waste to many as 20 different sea star species from Mexico to Alaska, said Gehman, a researcher with the University of British Columbia and the Hakai Institute. Now, researchers at UC Santa Cruz have analyzed just how much the populations of this species … Sea stars are known as “keystone predators”. The wasting disease may be caused by a virus, but this is far from certain. and Washington coasts. The scientific name of the ochre sea star is Pisaster ochraceus. An individual sea star can have thousands of larvae in one reproductive event, so hope for a comeback is not lost. The cascade effect has been studied before in ecosystems devoid of sea otters, but this is the first time it’s being looked at in the context of the sea star wasting syndrome. However, the intertidal community is already changing. A disease that wipes out a keystone predator such as the sea star can have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. My dissertation provides evidence that sea star wasting does not have uniform causes or population-level and community-level consequences across coastal regions. A “zombie apocalypse” has been underway beneath the waves since 2013, with sea star wasting disease (SSWD) dissolving more than 20 species of sea stars into puddles of rotting flesh on the seafloor. To find sea star patient zero, the researchers plan to conduct more molecular analyses to determine how the disease became so virulent so quickly. Both sunflower and ochre stars—the purple-and-orange starfish found clinging to rocky beaches and piers that people along the British Columbia coast are most likely to recognize—are keystone species. This research will most likely take years of meticulous study but the results will help paint a more holistic picture of the consequences of the sea star wasting syndrome. The problem surfaced in 2013, when sea star wasting disease (or SSWD) was spotted along the B.C. In some areas, 98 percent of sea stars have died from the virus. But while such stressors may have something to do with the rapid spread of sea star wasting syndrome, the researchers now think the underlying cause of … Over a matter of months, many sea star species died in record-breaking numbers, though Pisaster ochraceus —a keystone species known as the ochre sea star—was among the hardest hit. Their presence or absence makes a huge difference in the entire make-up of the ecosystem. Since 2013, much of our effort has focused on documenting the progression of sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) along the West Coast of North America and across a range of sea star species. Finally, I conclude with key insights from this work. 2015: I wish to acknowledge all the experts who contributed their time to educating us about the problems of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. Beginning in 2013, a mysterious disease crippled sea star populations up and down the U.S. west coast. 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