The wasting disease that is affecting sea stars also is not specific to one species: more than 20 sea star species have been affected so far. Now, researchers at UC Santa Cruz have analyzed just how much the populations of this species … and Washington coasts. Finally, I conclude with key insights from this work. Sea stars are known as “keystone predators”. Beginning in 2013, a mysterious disease crippled sea star populations up and down the U.S. west coast. It then rapidly began to lay waste to many as 20 different sea star species from Mexico to Alaska, said Gehman, a researcher with the University of British Columbia and the Hakai Institute. The wasting disease may be caused by a virus, but this is far from certain. An individual sea star can have thousands of larvae in one reproductive event, so hope for a comeback is not lost. Since 2013, much of our effort has focused on documenting the progression of sea star wasting syndrome (SSWS) along the West Coast of North America and across a range of sea star species. The scientific name of the ochre sea star is Pisaster ochraceus. Both sunflower and ochre stars—the purple-and-orange starfish found clinging to rocky beaches and piers that people along the British Columbia coast are most likely to recognize—are keystone species. Over a matter of months, many sea star species died in record-breaking numbers, though Pisaster ochraceus —a keystone species known as the ochre sea star—was among the hardest hit. Sea Star Wasting Syndrome September 21, 2015 Excerpts from www.seastarwasting.org “Sea stars along much of the North American Pacific coast are dying in great numbers from a mysterious wasting syndrome. The condition is technically known as sea star wasting disease or as sea star wasting syndrome. Thank you to Peter Raimondi and Melissa Miner at the University of California-Santa Cruz and Jessica Schultz and Nicolle Cann of the Vancouver Aquarium for speaking with me They provided clear answers and posed important questions about this very … 2015: I wish to acknowledge all the experts who contributed their time to educating us about the problems of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. But while such stressors may have something to do with the rapid spread of sea star wasting syndrome, the researchers now think the underlying cause of … In some areas, 98 percent of sea stars have died from the virus. The cascade effect has been studied before in ecosystems devoid of sea otters, but this is the first time it’s being looked at in the context of the sea star wasting syndrome. This research will most likely take years of meticulous study but the results will help paint a more holistic picture of the consequences of the sea star wasting syndrome. However, a coast-wide scale, pre-outbreak sea star density was positively correlated with pre-outbreak sea star density. Aside from the alarming loss of sea stars, their disappearance has larger, ongoing implications for the marine ecosystem, Gehman said. My dissertation provides evidence that sea star wasting does not have uniform causes or population-level and community-level consequences across coastal regions. The disease has affected other species, but P. ochraceus has been especially hard hit. A “zombie apocalypse” has been underway beneath the waves since 2013, with sea star wasting disease (SSWD) dissolving more than 20 species of sea stars into puddles of rotting flesh on the seafloor. A disease that wipes out a keystone predator such as the sea star can have ripple effects throughout the ecosystem. However, the intertidal community is already changing. Their presence or absence makes a huge difference in the entire make-up of the ecosystem. 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