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What's Happening To The Starfish In California?

(Photo by Jason Rojas via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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Note from the editors: On November 21, 2013 we discovered the post below did not follow our standard practice for attribution, which is to quote and link to original sources. The source in question is The Christian Post. The editor responsible is no longer working for LAist, and we are reviewing each of her other posts and will issue corrections if we discover any other errors.

Where have all the sea stars gone? The answer is grim: A mysterious disease is destroying a breed of starfish found along the West Coast.

Scientists say an outbreak of “sea star wasting disease” -- a sickness that causes starfish to develop white lesions, lose arms and eventually disintegrate -- is to blame. The illness is spreading at a rapid rate from Southern California all the way up to Alaska, CBS reports.

The disease appears to be a pathogen that is exacerbated in warm water during summer and fall seasons, scientists said.

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Wasting disease has killed off about 95 percent of orange and purple starfish that are commonly found in West Coast tide pool populations, according to the Associated Press. Mike Schaadt, Director of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, told CBS that while the sickness is troubling, it is part of a natural process that scientists have seen before.

Schaadt said a similar outbreak killed off about 90 percent of the starfish breed five years ago, but population numbers eventually bounced back to normal. He added that the disease is unlikely to pose a long-term ecological threat.