#sickstarfish - Jo-Ann Carson


Starfish along the west coast

are dying

…and we don’t know why.

Scientists have asked for help locating dying starfish  (#sickstarfish).

“With thousands of miles of coastline in North America, scientists can’t be everywhere at once to keep an eye out for sick and dying starfish.

“We suddenly need the fine scale, widespread data that only citizen science will be able to provide us,” said Drew Harvell, a marine epidemiologist at Cornell University, who has been coordinating the research into the mysterious mass die-offs of starfish, … up and down the West Coast of North America.” (Katie Campbell, Way Points Blog, KCTS, Jan. 30, 2014)

Concerned individuals are looking for sick star fish and mapping their location:

“… a sick starfish website [has been set up] for tracking posts to social media sites like Twitter and Instagram. If divers, tidepoolers or beachcombers snap photos of starfish and add the hashtag #sickstarfish, their reports will automatically upload to the map.” (Ibid)

Some people love horses. I love star fish.

Ochre Star Fish Saltspring Island

Ochre Star Fish
Saltspring Island

They, “…are among the most familiar of marine invertebrates. ..typically have a central disc and five arms, though some species have more… The aboral or upper surface may be smooth, granular or spiny, and is covered with overlapping plates. Many species are brightly coloured in various shades of red or orange, while others are blue, grey or brown. Starfish have tube feet operated by a hydraulic system and a mouth at the centre of the oral or lower surface. They are opportunistic feeders and are mostly predators on benthic invertebrates… They have complex life cycles and can reproduce both sexually and asexually. Most can regenerate damaged parts or lost arms and they can shed arms as a means of defense. The Asteroidea occupy several significant ecological roles. Starfish, such as the ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus) and the reef sea star (Stichaster australis), have become widely known as examples of the keystone species concept in ecology.

The fossil record for starfish is ancient, dating back to the Ordovician around 450 million years ago, but it is rather poor, as starfish tend to disintegrate after death. Only the ossicles and spines of the animal are likely to be preserved, making remains hard to locate. With their appealing symmetrical shape, starfish have played a part in literature, legend, design and popular culture. They are sometimes collected as curios, used in design or as logos, and in some cultures, despite possible toxicity, they are eaten.” (Wikipedia)
PBS Report:

You Tube clip from PBS Newshour, Thursday January 30, 2014

I don’t normally talk science on this blog. Heck, I don’t normally talk science. But I find this news alarming.

Not very long ago, a visiting friend told me that what she loved most about island life is its slow pace. “We had time to watch star fish roll over,” she said. Her words echo in my mind.

I want my great-grandchildren to be able to watch star fish too.

0 Replies to “#sickstarfish”

    1. Hi Emma
      I had the same reaction. It’s scary. And they die a horrible death. I hope they figure it out soon. In the meantime, I’m going to be looking closely for them on low tide.
      Thanks for stopping by.

  1. This is disturbing, Jo-Ann. I’ll FB and tweet. Hopefully get some more folks out looking. You’d think since they can regenerate a leg/arm, they’d be almost indestructible. You wonder if this isn’t another case of man messing up nature. 🙁

    1. Hi Marsha
      It makes me shudder, and I too wonder if it isn’t all our fault. I went out star fish hunting yesterday. Every one I saw looked healthy except for the one in the beak of a mean looking sea gull. I can hope the malady isn’t spreading quickly. Thanks for stopping by, commenting and sharing. You’re awesome.

    1. Hi Judy
      I tried to find articles that would link the two, but all I found were reassurances that our fish are healthy to eat. Propoganda? Who knows.
      In the meantime, I haven’t found any sick star fish and I’m crossing my fingers.
      Welcome home, btw. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Those would seem to be the canary in the coal mine to me. I sure hope it’s not related to radiation from Japan but there was concerns about that when it happened so sadly, it doesn’t seem far fetched at all.

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