NBC News: “Grisly disease decimating starfish populations… from Orange County to Alaska” — Scientists: Alarm as they began eating each other, then melting away — Similar problem on East Coast observed since 2011 — Now spreading at “scary” rate (VIDEO)

Saturday, November 2, 2013
By Paul Martin

November 2nd, 2013

NBC News, Oct. 28, 2013 (Emphasis Added): A grisly disease is decimating starfish populations on both North American coasts. From Orange County to Alaska, and along the rocky shores of New England, leggy echinoderms are shedding their limbs and “melting” away. […] on the East Coast, this year’s dying is a second chapter to a die off that started in 2010 […] “A year after that we started seeing animals that have been exhibiting this ‘wasting disease.’ It appears to have [been] developing over the past few years,” Gary Wessel, a professor at Brown University who is investigating the disease, told NBC News. […] What’s different this year is the speed at which the mystery ailment is zipping through starfish populations, leaving tattered limbs and spilled guts in its wake. […] “The spread — that’s a little bit scary for me,” Wessel said.

Monterey County Weekly, Updated Oct. 31, 2013: Allison Gong often keeps live sea stars for her college biology classes at CSU Monterey Bay. Early this fall, however, she was alarmed to find her animals eating each other. Even worse, they were beginning to disintegrate. “Healthy stars don’t get eaten by other stars, so seeing cannibalism always raises the ‘uh-oh’ flag,” says Gong, associate research biologist at UC Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory. “Then, the stars began dropping arms and melting away.” […] Over the past few months, scuba divers in British Columbia as well as researchers in Alaska, Washington and California have reported hundreds of melting sea stars from at least 10 different species. The timing of these outbreaks suggests they are connected, and researchers are concerned about the potential regional impacts. […] “This star is a keystone species; its absence causes a change in the makeup of the biological community” [said Gong] […] 10/31/13 UPDATE: As of late this week, researchers at Hopkins Marine Station report numerous sick sea stars in the kelp forest adjacent to the Station, confirming sightings earlier this month […]

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