Smithsonian, Apr 6, 2015: [M]illions of sea stars along North America’s Pacific coast met a grisly end when a virus rotted their bodies into lumps of white goo… scientists fear that greater consequences of this “wasting disease” are already at play. And the sickness may be spreading even further… ecologists worry that the sea urchins could now be catching the same ailment.
Tweet from National Geographic, Apr 1, 2015: Now urchins are wasting away off California, in addition to sea stars… as the fallout from sea star disease ripples along the California coast.
National Geographic, Apr. 1, 2015 (emphasis added): [I]n southern California, urchins are losing their spines and dying… [T]he mass mortalities… are newly discovered phenomena that appear to be connected to a die-off of sea stars… Santa Barbara to Baja California, urchins’ spines are falling out, leaving a circular patch that loses more spines and enlarges with time… “We think that there’s a wasting event going on with urchins,” says Peter Raimondi, an ecology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz. “It is by no means as rapid as the sea star wasting… But we do see it in multiple sites. And when we do see it, we see it in a lot of animals.”… [S]cientists revealed a virus… had suddenly flourished [in sea stars], although no one at this point understands why… biologists have suggested that the virus may have evolved, becoming an extra-potent slayer… “There are particular signs that point to this being a wasting event, the way the animals are dying,” Raimondi says. The most common kinds of California urchins—purple, red, and white—are losing their spines… markers indicate that sea urchins in southern California are now in a wasting event, Raimondi says… Researchers fear that sea star wasting disease has spread to urchins.
Are urchins only dying in So. California as National Geographic reports?
Not according to another recent National Geographic report: “Urchins… seemed to have escaped the ill effects of the virus until now. But in recent weeks, reports have started to come in that they too are dying along beaches in the Pacific Northwest… [Cornell microbiologist Ian Hewson is] studying the urchins… that are already dying to see if the same killer is responsible.”
Friday Harbor Laboratories (Univ. of Washington), Amy Henry’s Lab Notebook, July 29, 2012: “Lime Kiln State Park… It appeared to have patchy dark lesions all over its body- areas where spines had fallen off and were replaced with goopy purple epidermis or potentially microbial colonies. There was a white margin to the presumptively infected patches, with darker purple or red centers. The urchin was still alive… His tube feet are lethargic.”
Jeff Marliave, Vancouver Aquarium, Jan 2014 (at 48:00 in): “Divers reported that all the red urchins have lost their spines… When we see a huge abundance of green urchins and then suddenly they’re gone, I’ve always tended to think, ‘What ate them? What ate them?… What killed them off?’ It could have been a bug.”
In early 2015, we reported on a similar phenomenon observed in Hawaii: Gov’t: Sick urchins have patchy loss of their spines and lesions
Published: April 7th, 2015 at 9:18 am ET