In recent years, scientists have made a startling discovery in the world of marine biology: zombie starfish.
These starfish, also known as “sea stars,” are being infected by a mysterious disease that causes them to lose their limbs and then regenerate them in a way that makes them look like something out of a horror movie.
In this article, we will explore the phenomenon of zombie starfish, what causes it, and what impact it could have on the ocean’s ecosystem.
What are Zombie Starfish?
Zombie starfish, or sea stars, are being infected by a disease called sea star wasting syndrome.
This disease causes the starfish to lose their limbs and then regenerate them in a way that makes them look like they have come back from the dead. The limbs are often twisted, discolored, and have a “zombie-like” appearance.
The disease first appeared in the 1970s, but it wasn’t until 2013 that it started to affect large numbers of starfish along the west coast of North America.
The disease has since spread to other parts of the world, including Australia and Europe, and has affected over 20 species of starfish.
What Causes Zombie Starfish?
The cause of sea star wasting syndrome is still unknown, but scientists believe it is caused by a virus or bacteria.
The disease is highly contagious, and once a starfish is infected, it can spread the disease to other starfish through physical contact or the water.
The disease attacks the starfish’s immune system, causing it to break down and lose its ability to fight off infections.
This leaves the starfish vulnerable to secondary infections and parasites, which can further weaken the animal and eventually lead to its death.
Impact on the Ecosystem
The loss of starfish could have a significant impact on the ocean’s ecosystem. Starfish are a keystone species, which means they play a critical role in maintaining the balance of the ecosystem.
They are voracious predators of mussels, clams, and other small invertebrates, and their absence could lead to an explosion in the population of these species.