Scientists Name Cause of Massive Sea Star Die-Off

A sick sea star wastes away in a Santa Barbara tide pool
Alice Nguyen

Scientists believe they have pinpointed the culprit behind the deaths of millions of sea stars between Alaska and Baja California since 2013. A densovirus ​— ​a type of parvovirous found in invertebrates ​— ​is to blame, according to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The wasting disease quickly attacks and kills the sea stars, which lose their limbs and essentially melt upon infection. How the virus works and what triggered the outbreak remains unknown, but researchers are toiling to find answers as the creatures are a keystone species that help maintain balance in delicate ocean ecosystems.


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