"Sunflower sea stars, hit by a “climate-fueled pandemic,” play a key role in keeping marine ecosystems balanced."
"Sunflower sea stars, huge starfish that until recently thrived in waters up and down the west coast of North America, are threatened with extinction and should be protected under the Endangered Species Act, federal officials said Wednesday.
The starfish have been devastated by a wasting syndrome that has been linked to the effects of climate change. It killed more than 90 percent of sunflower sea stars from 2013 to 2017, in what officials described as the largest marine wildlife disease outbreak on record. The sickness starts with lethargy and lesions followed by tissue decay. Starfish’s limbs drop off and they die within days, leaving a gooey pile.
“We think it’s likely exacerbated by the increasing ocean temperature,” said Sadie Wright, a protected species biologist with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries who worked on the status review for the sunflower sea star. Rapid changes in temperatures, another consequence of climate change, also play a role."
Catrin Einhorn reports for the New York Times March 15, 2023.