Nel's New Day

January 7, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Sea Stars Gradually Disappear

Filed under: Sue Hardesty — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , , ,

When I was young, these creatures were called starfish. The name was changed in the United States during the past five decades to sea stars because they are echinoderms, not fish, and closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars. No matter what the name, they are disappearing because of environmental problems. This Sea Grant video shows how scientists at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are developing a blood panel for ochre sea stars to help treat them before they die off from Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

Below, Sue Hardesty’s Facebook entry about the gradual extinction:

I want to talk about my favorite sea thingy, that wondrous little creature, the sea star, that’s nearly impossible to kill. Until now. September 18, 2016, I posted on my Facebook. “Spent yesterday morning walking the tide pools on my favorite beach, looking for my favorite ocean friends, the sea stars. There should have been hundreds. I found three. All sick. They all had bubbling and swelling in their centers and the curling limbs, eventually turning into a smearing mess. This is the fourth year. How much longer before they are all gone?” So, I went looking.

The tragic fact is that we are presently witnessing the largest wildlife die-off in recorded history—and we don’t know why. It is suspected they are another victim of global warming, but the research is still sketchy. Even though this little sea creature has no fins, or brain, or teeth, or even bones, and circulates sea water through their systems instead of blood, they are still tough little guys of wondrous colors and shapes, and, remarkably, they have eyes at the end of each arm, can produce millions of eggs at one time, replace lost arms, and change gender from male to female at will. They can even create glue with their feet. Did I mention how beautiful they are, dressed up in all kinds of colors and shaped with many arms? The loss of the sea star is a true disaster because, unlike the 80 or so extinct mammal species whose demise we are already responsible for, this little guy is one of our major keystone species.

When a major keystone species becomes extinct, its habitat and the living creatures in it are seriously affected and often simply disappear. What makes the sea star a keystone species is that it eats sea urchins which have the bad habit of “clear-cutting” kelp beds destroying cover as well as oxygen and food for many other species, including prawns and fish. Sea stars also eat mussels which, if left unintended, clean the water so well no food is left for the small fishes. Other examples of keystone species presently in danger are bees whose pollination is critical for plant survival, and, in turn, provide food and shelter for bugs who are eaten by birds. Then there is the predator such as bears, lions, tigers, wolves, cougars, and good ol’ man who keep the population of various species in check.

A new report from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, November 26, 2018, has cited a disease called the “sea star wasting syndrome” as the killer of millions of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska. Like the perfect storm, this disease could be a combination of elevated sea water temperatures with an imbalance of microbiome, or just as likely several microbe pathogens.” The report also discussed the 2014/2015 “unusual boom” in juvenile sea stars of several species which gave so many of us hope. “Unfortunately, the abundance was short-lived,” wrote Schultz. “The juveniles disappeared over a period of weeks to months, and no evidence of their abundance has so far been reflected in adult populations…it’s not uncommon at all to observe a sea star healthy one day and in pieces and near death the next morning,” said UVM co-author Melanie Lloyd. “If this disease was happening in humans, it would be the making of a Stephen King novel.”

 

Sources:

https://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/data-products/sea-star-wasting/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107130255.htm

https://www.opb.org/news/article/despite-glimmers-of-hope-starfish-are-still-wasting-away/

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180320141317.htm

 

2 Comments »

  1. 95 Percent Loss Of Kelp Forests, Starfish Extinct, Abalone Are Experiencing Mass Die Off On West Coast Of Pacific Ocean, Abalone Starving To Death, Coming Up On Shore In 2017; Desperate Attempt To Find Food That Is Gone
    https://www.agreenroadjournal.com/2016/06/kelp-forests-and-abalone-are.html

    Like

    Comment by A Green Road Daily News — January 8, 2019 @ 4:20 PM | Reply

  2. Fukushima Radiation And Links To Mass Die Off Of Sea Stars, Starfish, Chitons, Abalone, Mussels, Sun Stars, Salmon In Pacific Ocean, S. California To Alaska, Study Confirms Bioaccumulation Of Radiation In Star Fish And Seafood
    https://www.agreenroadjournal.com/2013/09/mass-die-off-of-starfish-chitons.html

    Like

    Comment by A Green Road Daily News — January 8, 2019 @ 3:49 PM | Reply


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