Zombie starfish? Not what you’d expect to see on the California coast- but descriptions of this massive, unknown outbreak refer to a “zombie wasteland” and starfish with “detached arms crawling away from their bodies.” An unknown wasting disease is turning starfish into goo, literally within hours, and is now affecting multiple species of sea stars, sea urchins, and lobsters. And this isn’t the first time this has happened- outbreaks in 1983 and 1997 were similar to this one, but nowhere near as extensive.
The big question: why? What is causing this, and what can researchers do to stop it?
By working to map this disease along the Pacific coast, researchers are hoping to find some clues as to the disease’s origins. As this is a pretty extensive project, reports from local citizens are also important in data collection- talk about collaborative research!
The most likely culprits at this point are low oxygen levels in the water and warmer temperatures, but further research will yield more information as to the exact cause of the disease and how it spreads.