The starfish population in the West Coast is on the road to recovery, surviving through a mysterious illness that wiped out most of the sea creatures a few years ago.
The unknown disease, which killed millions of starfish, remains an enigma to scientists. The alleged virus has not disappeared, but the good news is that starfish are again appearing in areas where there was once none of them.
Starfish Almost Wiped Out By Unknown Disease
The unknown disease, referred to by scientists as the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, struck the West Coast in 2013. The illness decimated up to 99 percent of the purple sea star population, and affected around 40 other starfish species.
Making Sea Star Wasting Syndrome even more mysterious, however, is how it affected the starfish. An infected starfish will rip off its own arms and gut itself, with arms moving toward opposite directions until the starfish is ripped to shreds and the arms turn into goo.
Scientists have been trying to determine the cause of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, as starfish are important to the marine ecosystem on the West Coast. Researchers believe that there is a pathogen, such as a virus, bacteria, or parasite that is causing the mysterious illness.
Starfish Population Recovers From Sea Star Wasting Syndrome
The secrets of the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome remain locked away, but the starfish population has shown signs of recovery. The sea creatures started their rebound last year, with large numbers of baby starfish observed two years after the onset of the mysterious disease.
The starfish population has since continued its recovery, with starfish now being spotted in tide pools in Southern California and other places along the West Coast. Many of the starfish are about the size of a human hand, but scientists remain hopeful that there will soon be bigger starfish that can grow to lengths of up to 20 inches.
"They are coming back, big time," said Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's Darryl Deleske, who noted that a couple of years ago at the height of the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, he could not find a single starfish when diving from San Pedro, California all the way to Canada.
Is The Sea Star Wasting Syndrome Gone?
Unfortunately, the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome is still present in the West Coast, even in the areas where the starfish are once again reappearing.
However, research continues to understand what is causing the mysterious illness and to find a cure for it, to prevent the starfish population from being decimated once again. There is also hope that the next generation of starfish will be more resilient to the Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.