June 10, 2019

As some sea star populations make a comeback, scientists may have found cause of ‘wasting disease’

One of a few Leptasterias sea stars, known as the six-rayed star, to be found outside of ecologist Brenda Konar’s survey plots. (Photo by Aaron Bolton/KBBI)

Along the West Coast, there are signs that sea stars are recovering from a wasting disease epidemic that began around 2013. Stars suffering from the disease literally melt away within 48 hours of the first sign of sickness.

Scientists once thought it was caused by a virus or another pathogen, but now they think it may actually be another sign of climate change.

University of Alaska Fairbanks ecologist Brenda Konar and her graduate students begin to survey a beach on a small island in Kachemak Bay. They’re here to count sea stars and other intertidal plants and animals.

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