Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sea Stars (by no means "free fish") plagued by mystery wasting disease, turning to "goo" - an environmental warning?

There is a mysterious disease that is turning starfish into “goo”.  Fox News has a typical story here
Starfish cannot become “free fish” because they aren’t fish at all;  they are from a rather bizarre phylum called echinoderms (class Asterozoa).  But their population is important to the ocean ecosystem upon which our seafood chain ultimately depends.
If it is a virus, it would indeed be bizarre, that a virus can liquefy animal tissue although Laurie Garret, in her 1990s book “The Coming Plague” described Ebola virus as capable of doing that to human internal organs. 
Some speculate that the disease has something to do with warming oceans and acidity.

There were a couple of smaller epidemics in the 1980s and 1990s, but nothing like the die-off up and down the entire West Coast in 2013.  
Maybe video filmmaker and actor Reid Ewing should add 30 seconds or so of coverage about this catastrophe  to his satirical “Free Fish” (2012) short film (Movies blog, May 13, 2013).  The video does mention that some sea birds are dying because of eating human plastic waster, or regurgitating it into the mouths of chicks.  No doubt, plastic isn’t good for the “fish” themselves. He mentions sea horses, and almost gets around to saying that the males sometimes carry the young.  As for jellyfish – yes, the filmmaker is better looking (much so) than a coelenterate in biology lab – but then there is nearly extraterrestrial horror of the box jellyfish (particularly near Australia), with perhaps the deadliest poison known, and a biological derivation that seems alien. 
Wikipedia attribution link for image of starfish (Sea Star( regrowing arms.  Second picture (my own), Pacific Coast north of San Diego, near nuclear power plant, May 2012.  

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