Tuesday, November 18, 2014

From the Science Desk: Virus Snuffing Out Sea Stars Identified

"Identifying what virus is to blame is particularly difficult because a drop of seawater contains about 10 million viruses."

That's what scientists had to sort through in order to find the virus that's responsible for sea star wasting syndrome, the awful infection that's been causing sea stars (that's starfish) to lose limbs and in extreme cases, simply dissolve, along the West Coast of the North America for a few years.

But now that we've identified the culprit, how do we stop it? Or do we stop it? Many of the sea stars the virus affects are alpha predators within their specific ecosystem. That is, they're in the highest reaches of the food chain and help keep the population of prey animals under control.

Yet some say the virus may be nature's way of culling a population of sea stars that's become too large for sustainability, so we let it work itself out.

Read the PBS/News Hour story: "Scientists solve mystery of West Coast starfish plague"

Or be a lazy sod and watch this video: