Photo: Images Jennifer Idol / Stocktrek Images / Getty Images / Stocktrek Images
Solid sunflower starfish, once rich along the west coast of North America, have disappeared from the water in the region due to astonishing speed due to disease and climate change, researchers reported in a new study.
Since 2013, the loss of marine stars has killed thousands of spinal cord from Mexico to Alaska. The disease causes lesions on the skin of the starfish, hands that can be separated and often end in death.
Sea stars of sunflowers – massive mammoth-sized animals – are particularly hard hit. Scientists now estimate that the number of residents in California and Washington dropped by 80 to 100 percent in some places.
"One time in coastal waters, sea stars of sunflower can not now be found on the coast of California and are rare in Alaska," said Drew Harvell, Professor Cornell for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. Harvell is a co-author of studies, published on Wednesday in the Science Advances magazine, with researchers from UC Davis.
In parts of their southern area, sea stars are considered endangered by scientists, Harvell said.
Climate change, for which scientists say they increase the temperature of ocean waters, exacerbate the impact of the sea star's loss.
"It's a deadly disease, and when you add a higher temperature to it, it kills faster, causing a greater impact," Harvell said.
The sea starfish disappearing – a predatory predator that is known to spread across the ocean floor with the enthusiasm of the street cleaner – will probably have a wide impact on the sensitive ocean ecosystem. Sunflower sea stars eat sea horns, and without predators who keep their numbers under control, the hives exploded in some places, dramatically reducing sea traces.
This is threatened by "forests of cola and biodiversity," said Joseph Gaydos, senior author of the article and director of UC Davis SeaDoc Society, in a statement. "This cascade effect has a great impact."
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