A research professor at Cornell University says he believes he’s come up with a possible cause of the recent massive sea star die-off along the West Coast. Professor Ian Hewson’s research, revealed in the research publication “Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,” has traced what he highly suspects is the cause of Sea Star mass wasting – a densovirus that exploded in population and took down nearly ever Sea Star from Vancouver to Southern California. However, Hewson warns that there is more research to get through before science can call it a bullseye as to a cause. But adds, he’s getting more and more confident.
One important experiment he performed was to take two healthy sea stars and inject one of them with the densovirus. It didn’t last long. It soon showed all the “melting symptoms” as well as rapid dismemberment of its “arms.”
Hewson says this particular virus was first discovered along the west coast in 1942, so it’s no newcomer to the scene. However, one unanswered question that Hewson and other researchers are looking into is whether the virus was an opportunistic pathogen that some other sickness made possible for it to get inside. One theory that a Hatfield Marine Science researcher offered was that higher acid levels in ocean water, due to more and more dissolved greenhouse gas contamination, breaks down sea stars’ outer membrane allowing the pathogen inside to do its dirty work.
So, they think they’re getting closer to coming up with all of theoretical moving parts that, acting in unison, caused the demise of sea stars along the west coast.