It seems research has gotten a little closer to figuring out the cyclic episodes of starfish wasting disease that have periodically occurred on both North American shores and been recorded over quite a number of years….
Scientists now know it is related to starfish associated densovirus because of the higher levels of viral load in the affected sea stars than in the healthy ones tested but have also recorded a correlation between incidences of the disease and the timeframes when the ocean temperatures are increased, such as the last couple of years when we have had a strong El Nino in the Pacific Ocean.
Some studies indicate that nuclear pollution along the North American pacific shores may also play a part in the severity of the current level of starfish wasting disease. One also has to think that ocean acidification and the lesser amounts of oxygen in the sea water might also be playing some part in the delicate balance the creatures in the sea require. Fish and mammals can move when there are changes in the environment that they are not amenable to as observed by the changes in the migration and feeding patterns of the salmon and whales this past year, the move of the halibut feeding areas and where the crab and prawns frequented, but slow moving creatures who cover little territory, such as starfish and molluscs who live in the sand of one beach or attached to one rock through their lives do not have the luxury of relocating when changes to their environment happen.
We can look forward to the ocean temperatures returning to normal again with the El Nino gone now, the plankton blooms returning to their normal levels and maybe with that a reduction in the incidence of starfish wasting disease seen along the Pacific coast this year. This will remain to be seen. As for the oceanic oxygen levels and ocean acidification … With the plankton bloom levels hopefully returning to normal not so much will die off, sink to the bottom and contribute to the co2 levels, but as a society we still need to look at the products that are going into our waste water and into our air and see what we can do for the future.
Evolution is natural, but nature has a way to maintain and balance its changes …. Maybe we should all plant a tree.