Something has been killing off starfish on both coasts in the United States...
The illness first reveals itself as a white lesion on the animal's body (similar to the white "ick" seen on some fish in fish tanks). As the illness progresses, the star becomes more limp and oftentimes loses one or more of its arms—at some point its external organs spill out. Eventually the star succumbs leaving behind a ghostly ash-white visage.
The disease was first noticed in the summer of 2013, and since then has spread quickly along both coasts. Thus far, researchers have ruled out most fungi, a few parasites and some types of bacteria. The current concern is that it's a virus which would mean that very little could be done about it.
Another worry is what will happen in the absence of starfish—animals that are normally eaten will possibly flourish, leading to a glut, or the rise of another predator. Also, what might happen if the mystery illness spreads to other sea creatures?
Perhaps just as concerning is why the illness suddenly cropped up. Did something from somewhere else make its way into the waters off North America? Did something already present grow stronger? Or, possibly the worst scenario, has some threshold been reached in a man-made pollutant?
Scientists don't know but a growing team of scientists with a wide variety of backgrounds is working on the problem, hoping the answer can be discovered before all the star fish are gone.
Full article here: http://phys.org/news/2014-05-mysterious-illness-starfish-coasts.html