Baby starfish are back! In this July 30, 2015 file photo, a healthy sea star is seen under a magnifying glass during a survey to determine the health of local sea star populations at Camano Island State Park in Washington state. (Ian Terry/The Herald via AP, File/AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Baby starfish are back!
Lexile

Droves of baby starfish are returning to Oregon and Northern California's shores.  A wasting disease decimated whole populations of the creatures over the past two years along the West Coast.
 
Data was collected by Oregon State University researchers. The research shows an unprecedented number of baby starfish, or sea stars. They survived the summer and winter of 2015, the Eureka Times Standard has reported.
 
"When we looked at the settlement of the larval sea stars on rocks in 2014 during the epidemic, it was the same or maybe even a bit lower than previous years," Oregon State University marine biology professor Bruce Menge said in a statement.
 
But a few months later, the number of juveniles was off the charts. It was "higher than we'd ever seen - as much as 300 times normal."
 
A similar increase was found at sites just north of Trinidad, California. That is near Patrick's Point State Park. A baby starfish boom also was noted in the summer of 2014. It was near Santa Cruz.
 
A virus killed millions of starfish on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs. Eventually they would disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones.
 
The cause of the outbreak remains unclear. Some have hypothesized it to be abnormally warm waters in the Pacific Ocean. The warmer waters have wreaked havoc on marine ecosystems. This has been going on for the past two years.
 
Humboldt State University Marine Lab Director Brian Tissot disagrees with that hypothesis. That is because the virus spread during colder months and didn't expand as much during the abnormally warm 2015.
 
"There is no clear environmental cue," Tissot said. He added the deadly wasting disease has declined in intensity. But he said it remains present.
 
Experts say that while it's encouraging to see the abundance of baby starfish, the disease, competition and environmental factors make their survival difficult.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why don't we know what was killing the starfish?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (26)
  • tylerl-ver
    5/16/2016 - 04:37 p.m.

    It is difficult to pinpoint what the cause was because we don't know what caused the disease. It could have been brought on by the colder weather. The disease still exists.

  • angelinat-3-bar
    5/16/2016 - 08:50 p.m.

    We don't know what was killing the starfish because many diseases are hard to see. The article says, "A wasting disease decimated whole populations of the creatures over the past two years along the West Coast." This shows that a disease was killing the starfish and many scientists may not have noticed it. I was interested in this article because I think starfish are cool. I was surprised by this article because I did not know that a disease was killing off many starfish.

  • mayaw-6-bar
    5/16/2016 - 10:46 p.m.

    We don't know what is killing the starfish because we do't know what has caused the disease. In paragraph 7, the article states that, "The cause of the outbreak remains unclear. Some have hypothesized it to be abnormally warm waters in the Pacific Ocean." In the quote it is telling the reader that hypotheses have been made, but it is still to be determined. Therefore, we don't know what is killing the starfish because scientists are unaware of what is causing this disease that has sprouted. I enjoyed this article because I learned something new, but I did not like the fact that innocent baby starfish are dying. Also, I wonder if the decrease in the population of starfish has affected the marine food chain?

  • lucasddd-3-bar
    5/18/2016 - 02:56 p.m.

    We don't know whats killing them because it was virus, and it is hard to see and tell if it is killing someone. One parpgraph says "A virus killed millions of starfish on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska by causing them to lose their limbs. Eventually they would disintegrate into slime and piles of tiny bones." This also makes it harder to investigate the star fish that were being killed.

    This article was interesting, and I am a star but not a fish. :))

  • avab-4-bar
    5/18/2016 - 03:02 p.m.

    We don't know what is killing the starfish because we do't know what has caused the disease. In paragraph 7, the article states that, "The cause of the outbreak remains unclear." The disease still exists.

    I found this article interesting because little baby starfish are super cute and it made me want to read about this article.

  • vincents-1-bar
    5/18/2016 - 07:21 p.m.

    Experts and marine biologists do not have a central idea on what was causing starfish populations to decrease because certain statistics are not compatible with current theories. For example, when a toxic epidemic spread down the West Coast of the U.S. two years ago, starfish were dropping like flies. But, a few short months later, juvenile starfish populations were "higher than we'd ever seen. As much as 300 times normal." Although remarkable and noteworthy, if the disease decimated starfish, how could they repopulate so fast? Something about the strange comeback doesn't correlate with previous research during the plague. This is why scientists do not know what was killing starfish populations.

  • oliviaw-4-bar
    5/18/2016 - 10:08 p.m.

    It is difficult to determine the exact reason as to why the sea star population of the West Coast has decreased so dramatically over the past two years. Marine biologists at Humboldt State University investigated the saddening mass death among the sea stars and agreed with a conclusion that was formerly hypothesized stating that the cause of the outbreak could be associated with, "abnormally warm waters in the Pacific Ocean." I did not particularly enjoy reading this article as it was mainly focussed around the death of thousands of creatures, which was in fact quite sad. However, I am curious as to what exactly caused this rapid decline in population.

  • audreyv-4-bar
    5/19/2016 - 06:45 p.m.

    We don't know what was killing he starfish, because it is difficult for scientist to figure out the exact disease that can be affecting these sea creatures. "Some have hypothesized it to be abnormally warm waters in the Pacific Ocean. " This statement shows how there are theories made, but we are still unsure of what is the true cause. I found this article interesting, because I am fascinated by underwater creatures.

  • zeusr-3-bar
    5/19/2016 - 07:52 p.m.

    We don't know what was killing the starfish because many diseases are hard to see. As stated in paragraph 1 " A wasting disease decimated whole populations of the creatures over the past two years along the West Coast."

    My opinion on this topic is that well wile there are diseases that we cant spot or find we could try to find them and destroy them.

  • lucasl-3-bar
    5/19/2016 - 09:55 p.m.

    Due to the complexity and sheer number of factors affecting the sea stars, it has been very difficult for scientists to determine their cause of death. The article states that while many believe El NiƱo plays a major role in the decimation of the sea star population, most marine biologists studying the issue are uncertain the direct cause. As more evidence is collected on the situation, however, it is likely that scientists will soon be able to find the cause and plan for an effective solution to help protect the animals. Sea stars are very intriguing organisms, and it is interesting to learn about the different factors that play a role in their lives and growth, and how this relates to us as humans.

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