After the 2014-2015 epidemic, which decimated almost the entire population of starfish, this year many baby starfish are returning to Nothern California and Oregon’s shores.
Researchers from Oregon State University made a calculation and found out that this year the number of baby starfish is unexpected as many of them survived the summer and winter of 2015.
According to Bruce Menge, marine biology professor at Oregon State University, the number of larval sea star on rocks in 2014 was the same or even lower than usual. But the scientists were surprised when a few months later the number of juveniles was 300 times more than normal, which was higher than ever.
This massive increase occurred in other places too such as north of Trinidad, California, near Patrick’s Point State Park. Still it was not the first time when such a baby starfish boom came out of nowhere. About two years ago, during the summer of 2014, researchers noted another unexpected increase near Santa Cruz.
Going back to the cause of the massive epidemic, the only thing that is known is that a virus caused the death of millions of starfish on the Pacific Coast from Southern California to Alaska. They started to lose their limbs which in the end resulted in a disintegration into piles of tiny bones and slime.
The scientists do not know the origin of the virus yet and how did it cause such a deadly outbreak. Some came up with the hypothesis that the starfish, just as the marine ecosystem, suffered due to abnormally warm waters in the Pacific Ocean.
But Brian Tissot, Marine Lab Director at Humboldt State University, disagreed with that hypothesis showing the fact that this virus expanded more during colder months rather than during the abnormally warm weather in 2015.
Even if the number of starfish has increased significantly, the intensity of the virus has only declined for the time being meaning that it is still present, which can lead to another outbreak. Besides the disease, environmental factors, and competition could still make the baby starfish survival tough.
Maybe the starfish triggered a very intensive reproductive method to defend themselves against the disease and to assure the survival of their species.
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