ANCHORAGE (AP) — Researchers from the University of Alaska Fairbanks made a disappointing discovery while surveying long-term monitoring sites: a half-dozen diseased sea stars in and around tidal pools on Elephant Island.
KTUU-TV reports that scientists had hoped the so-called “wasting disease” caused by a Densovirus would be unable to spread to the chilly waters of Kachemak Bay.
The disease causes sea stars to form lesions, lose arms and eventually disintegrate. Millions of the creatures from Baja California to Alaska have died from wasting disease since 2013.
UAF researcher Brenda Konar says she and her colleague found the diseased animals in a place where sea stars are normally the healthiest.
She says sea stars are one of the main predators of organisms like mussels, meaning the die-off could have broad effects on the ecosystem.