Scientists first noticed the mystery disease a year ago. Sea stars up and down the west coast of North America, from Mexico to Alaska, were dying in droves. No one knew what caused the disease, which was dubbed “sea star wasting syndrome.” The syndrome causes an infected starfish's arms to curl up and march off in different directions, as PBS explains in the video above. The result is that the starfish essentially quarter themselves.
According to the Canadian Press, researchers seem to be making some progress in identifying the cause of the disease:
We don't have an absolute answer yet," said Lesanna Lahner, a veterinarian at the Seattle Aquarium, after presenting the latest information at the Salish Sea Ecosystem conference in Seattle last week.
"We've narrowed in on it possibly being a pathogen, some sort of infectious source, bacterial or viral.
The scientists have been able to rule out parasites and fungus, says Reuters. But there is still a lot of uncertainty.
Researching the disease is made especially difficult, says the Canadian Press, because it causes the starfish's bodies to disintegrate. They're breaking down so fast that it's hard for researchers to get ahold of specimens to study.