Scientists say they have discovered the cause for the deaths of millions of sea stars off the Pacific coast, from B.C. down to Mexico.
A virus known as densovirus is the culprit, according to Prof. Ian Hewson of New York’s Cornell University, which causes the stars to dissolve “into a pile of goo” over a period of two to 10 days.
“This very high number of sea stars in the Pacific Northwest leading up to this disease epidemic probably is what exacerbated the virus and made the switch between something relatively benign into something that was totally virulent,” Hewson said.
“A diver was telling me they were diving in Howe Sound and all of a sudden these sea stars started to fall down around them and there was this huge avalanche underwater.”
The disease reportedly began to strike 18 months ago, and then sea stars began dying at the aquariums in Seattle and Vancouver.
“It’s gonna open up a whole lot of questions,” said Vancouver Aquarium veterinarian Martin Haulena (in the video above). “There’s always so many variables and so many confounding factors. I think that’s where the next bit of science has to happen.
“As well, we still need that smoking gun to say, ‘Yeah it’s this virus and nothing else’… but this is huge. This is the first big result for us.”
Files and Video by The Canadian Press