A new study suggests warmer seas may be making starfish more susceptible to naturally occurring diseases.
The report, published by the SeaDoc Society out of the University of California, Davis, suggests the deadliness of the ‘sea star wasting disease’ may be exacerbated by climate change and global warming.
They say the illness has already killed so many starfish along the Pacific Coast it could be the largest disease epidemic ever observed in wild marine life.
The scientists noted scuba divers were less likely to see living sea stars when the water temperatures were abnormally high and although they did not make a solid conclusion as to the cause, suggested the animals’ relatively simple immune systems might be weakened when sea stars get hot.
Joseph Gaydos, Senior Author of the study, said: “When this disease happens, it’s like a zombie apocalypse.
“It can have 24 arms and all of a sudden it’s walking around and its arms are just falling off. And then all of a sudden the whole body just seems to melt. It’s just a really ugly and fast disease for these sunflower sea stars.”