Starfish Disease, 'Sea Star Wasting Syndrome' Makes Creatures Tear Themselves Apart

All is not well in the land (or water) of starfishes.

A disease, called "sea star wasting syndrome" has been ravaging at least 12 different species of starfish across the West Coast, according to PBS.

Gawker does a nice job of summarizing what the disease does to its victims:

Sick starfish develop lesions on their bodies and begin to twist their arms into knots. The arms then crawl in opposite directions until they rip off. The starfish are unable to regenerate new limbs and die within 24 hours.

NPR reports that, because the syndrome doesn't show signs of spreading across the globe, scientists don't think it will lead to the end of all starfish kind. But, researchers are racing to figure out what exactly is wrong and minimize the damage.

One theory is that some boat carried a pathogen from another part of the world that then infected the starfish stateside and up through Canada.

Jeff Marliave, vice-president of marine science at the Vancouver Aquarium, told the Times Colonist that the epidemic may not be all bad, since starfish populations have been overpopulated in the area for more than 10 years.

"The one thing I'm coming to realize is that this is probably the way that population is controlled in this group of animals." Marliave said.



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