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During the summer of 2013 numerous maimed starfish were observed in the tidal pools of Olympic National Park (Washington State). The starfish could be found with lesions, missing appendages, or (in advanced cases) dead starfish were reduced to mush. As scientists began studying this possible marine health issue it became clear that a variety of Pacific starfish species appeared to suffer from this condition. Pycnopodia helianthoides or sunflower star, Pisaster ochraceus or ochre star, and Orthasterias koehleri or rainbow star were among the impacted species. As word spread it also became clear that starfish along the Pacific coast, from Alaska to California, were impacted. Similar episodes occurred in the past but not across such a vast area or with such high mortality rates.
The condition was named Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) after the rapid wasting away of starfish who suffered from this disease. A cause for for this disease was still illusive with some suggesting…
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