Disease causing sea stars to disintegrate on the Oregon Coast - KPTV - FOX 12

Disease causing sea stars to disintegrate on the Oregon Coast

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An Oregon Coast Aquarium diver monitors a healthy sea star near Newport, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium) An Oregon Coast Aquarium diver monitors a healthy sea star near Newport, Oregon. (Photo courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium)
The leg of this purple ochre sea star in Oregon is disintegrating, as it dies from sea star wasting syndrome. (Photo by Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, courtesy of Oregon State University) The leg of this purple ochre sea star in Oregon is disintegrating, as it dies from sea star wasting syndrome. (Photo by Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, courtesy of Oregon State University)
Undergraduate students at Oregon State University assist in monitoring the intertidal zone on the Oregon coast for damage done by sea star wasting syndrome. (Photo by Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, courtesy Oregon State University) Undergraduate students at Oregon State University assist in monitoring the intertidal zone on the Oregon coast for damage done by sea star wasting syndrome. (Photo by Elizabeth Cerny-Chipman, courtesy Oregon State University)
DEPOE BAY, OR (KPTV) -

A mysterious disease that causes sea stars to disintegrate is exploding on the Oregon Coast.

Oregon State University marine ecologist Kristen Milligan said Wednesday that Oregon was largely spared last year as the disease known as sea star wasting syndrome spread in California, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska.

But monitoring of tide pools along much of the coast shows the number of sea stars affected has jumped from just 1 percent in April to as high as 50 percent. The greatest concentration is at Fogarty Creek north of Depoe Bay.

Milligan says the cause of the disease is still unknown, but losing so many sea stars - a major predator on mussels and sea urchins - could throw the marine ecosystem out of balance.

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