Mysterious Disease Killing Sea Stars in Oregon

Mysterious Disease Killing Sea Stars in Oregon

Dozens of sea star are dying in the Oregon Coast because of the mysterious disease that has previously killed the species in Puget Sound. Divers with the Oregon Coast Aquarium found that 48 sea stars were either dead or dying in a 60-square-mile area in Yaquina Bay on Oregon's central coast during a survey last week.

The symptoms of the disease have been witnessed in sunflower stars, orche stars and giant pink stars. The disease leads to physical deterioration and eventually causes death. Some of the sea stars experience arms break off from their body and walk away before they get dissolved completely. "They found, basically dead, melting animals. Their arms were curling up, they had signs of lesions or arms had detached and walked away from the bodies completely", said Erin Paxton, a spokeswoman for the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Scientists are of the belief that the disease is caused by some bacteria or virus which is spreading fast. However, there is uncertainty over this theory as well. There were few reported cases in Oregon until last week, said Paxton. Divers had been conducting surveys since January, but did not find any evidence of affliction on sea stars until last week.

Now, divers will conduct additional surveys this week and next one. Paxton said that that they found sea stars falling victim of the disease, but it has not been ascertained yet that how widespread it is. It is a big reason to worry as sea stars are considered as a keystone species in the Oregon rocky reef ecosystem. If the species will die in more numbers, the entire food chain for marine food web will experience adverse alterations.

Wasting disease has not been witnessed for the first time, but what makes it different this time is the fact that it has affected 12 different species unlike previously when it typically attacked only one species.

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