Blue Dot 137: Sea Star's Alarming Decline

Mar 15, 2019

Credit Ed Gullekso / Science Advances

Before and after image of sea stars in the Pacific Ocean decimated by wasting disease.
Credit Diego Montecino / UC Davis

We go under the sea, literally, to investigate the alarming decline of sea star populations of the Pacific Coast of North America from Mexico to Alaska. Sea stars, commonly known as "starfish" are actually echinoderms and a keystone species, meaning they play a pivotal role within their ecosystem.

A mysterious wasting disease combined with warming oceans have decimated many species of sea stars, from the commonly found red stars in tidal zones to the offshore Sunflower Sea Stars that keep the kelp beds healthy by preying on urchins.

Dave talks to wildlife veterinarians Joe Gaydos and Diego Montecino from the University of California at Davis. Their study of the sea star decline points to climate change as a factor in the wasting disease and explains the importance of the species for the kelp forest ecosystem.

 

 

Before and after image of sea stars in the Pacific Ocean decimated by wasting disease.
Credit Diego Montecino / UC Davis

Sheryl Hosler, YouTube's "The Roving Naturalist" contributes a story about the IUCN Green List that examines the how some endangered species may or may not be on the road to recovery. As Hosler reports, it's complicated.

 

We close out the show with a song from Dave's favorite Disney Princess movie.