A group of scientists, who is investigating the mass killing of starfish along Pacific coast in North America, on Monday said that they have identified a virus that are responsible for the calamitous wasting disease, leading to the wipe out of millions of the sea stars since its first appearance last year.
According to the scientists, the pathogen has been identified as the Sea Star Associated Densovirus, also known as SSaDV, a parvovirus which is tiny form of virus that causes serious illness in animals and people.
They have also ruled out the possibility of any other agents, such as bacteria, fungi and protozoans, which can cause the pandemic under the sea.
Over 20 species of starfish, also known as sea stars, are dying from a calamitous wasting disease from southern Alaska to Baja California.
The wasting disease cause white lesions on the animal’s body before it droop, rupture and spill out its internal organs.
Study leader Ian Hewson, microbial ecologist and biological oceanographer at the Cornell University, “They basically fall apart into a pile of goo on the bottom of the seafloor.”
According to the researchers, the terrible disease was first detected in June last year and since then it has not shown any sign of slow down.
Hewson said that the discovery of virus linked to the marine disease is next to impossible job as its like finding a needle in a haystack. He explains a drop of seawater contains as much as 10 million viruses and hence, the findings of their experiment are a big thing.
“Not only is this an important discovery of a virus involved in a mass mortality of marine invertebrates, but this is also the first virus described in a sea star, “Hewson stressed.
Researchers are highly concerned about the high rate of disappearance of so many sea stars as their mass killing is a threatening call fro the disruption coastal ecosystems. They play an important role of predators in the waters.
The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.