Since 2013, a devastating outbreak of sea star wasting disease has killed millions of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska. The ongoing epidemic is so huge that many consider it to be the largest disease outbreak ever documented in marine wildlife. Infected animals develop lesions that eat away tissue, with limbs dropping off as the animals die. The disease has been linked to a specific virus called sea star-associated Densovirus, although environmental factors may also be involved. For example, studies have shown that elevated temperatures make the disease worse.
Dr. Joe Gaydos, SeaDoc Science Director will discuss the outbreak and what scientists have learned about its effect on multiple different sea star species on Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. at Emmanuel Episcopal Parish Hall. For example, an analysis of data collected by scientists and by recreational scuba divers in the Salish Sea showed severe impacts on some species, such as the sunflower sea star, Pycnopodia helianthoides, while populations of other species have actually increased.