Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New paper identifies virus devastating sea stars on Pacific Coast

18.11.2014

Virus' extensive geographic range and number of species infected might make it largest known marine wildlife disease to date

Museum biological collections are the records of life on Earth and as such, they are frequently used to investigate serious environmental issues. When public health officials were concerned about the levels of mercury in fish and birds, for example, scientists studied museum specimens to assess historical changes in mercury contamination.


This is a SSWD-affected star. The fatal disease leads to behavioral changes, lesions, loss of appendages, and disintegration.

Credit: Photo by Neil McDaniel.

Eggs in museum collections were analyzed to establish the connection between DDT, thinning eggshells, and the decline in bird populations. And now, specimens from the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County (NHM) have helped explain the mysteriously sudden appearance of a disease that has decimated sea stars on the North American Pacific Coast.

In a paper published Monday, November 17, 2014 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Cornell University microbiologist Ian Hewson and colleagues identify the Sea Star Associated Densovirus (SSaDV) virus as the microbe responsible for Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD). NHM Curator of Echinoderms Gordon Hendler and Collections Manager Cathy Groves, along with scientists from universities and aquariums along the coast (including NHM neighbor, the California Science Center), collaborated in the study.

Since June 2013, the largest die-off of sea stars ever recorded has swept the Pacific Coast. At least 20 different species of sea stars have been affected -- including iconic species like the "ochre star" and the multi-armed "sunflower star" -- and many populations of sea stars from Southern Alaska to Baja California have already disappeared.

Their large-scale disappearance is anticipated to have a serious and long-lasting ecological impact on coastal habitats, because sea stars are voracious predators, with a key role in regulating the ecology of the ocean floor.

Museum samples prove that the virus has existed at a low level for at least the past 72 years -- it was detected in preserved sea stars collected in 1942, 1980, 1987, and 1991. The study suggests the disease may have recently risen to epidemic levels because of sea star overpopulation, environmental changes, or mutation of the virus.

The study detected the virus on particles suspended in seawater, as well as in sediment, and showed that it is harbored in animals related to sea stars, such as sea urchins and brittle stars. Likely it can be transported by ocean currents, accounting for its rapid, widespread dispersal in the wild. Since the die-off began, the disease has caused a mass mortality of captive sea stars in aquariums on the Pacific Coast, although it did not spread in aquariums that sterilize inflowing seawater with UV light.

"There are 10 million viruses in a drop of seawater, so discovering the virus associated with a marine disease can be like looking for a needle in a haystack," Hewson said. In fact, the densovirus is the first and only virus identified in sea stars. However, its discovery will enable scientists to study how the virus infects sea stars and trace it in the ocean. Further research could reveal how the virus invades its host, why kills some sea stars, and why other species are unaffected.

Research might also identify factors that triggered the ongoing plague and help to predict or forestall similar events in the future.

"A recent publication highlighted examples of innovative studies for which museum time-series were integral in identifying responses to environmental change and bemoaned general decline in the growth of museum collections," said NHM's Hendler. "Fortunately, we bucked the trend and intentionally collected common, local species of sea stars, which made it possible to detect SSaDV in specimens from NHM!"

About the Natural History Museum:

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County is a national leader in research, exhibitions and education. The Museum was the first dedicated museum building in Los Angeles, opening its doors in 1913. It has amassed one of the world's most extensive and valuable collections of natural and cultural history -- with more than 35 million objects, some as old as 4.5 billion years. For more information, visit the Museum's website at http://www.nhm.org  or call (213) 763-DINO.

Kristin Friedrich | EurekAlert!

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht From the Arctic to the tropics: researchers present a unique database on Earth’s vegetation
20.11.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

nachricht Fading stripes in Southeast Asia: First insight into the ecology of an elusive and threatened rabbit
20.11.2018 | Forschungsverbund Berlin e.V.

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

Max Planck researchers revel the nano-structure of molecular trains and the reason for smooth transport in cellular antennas.

Moving around, sensing the extracellular environment, and signaling to other cells are important for a cell to function properly. Responsible for those tasks...

Im Focus: UNH scientists help provide first-ever views of elusive energy explosion

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have captured a difficult-to-view singular event involving "magnetic reconnection"--the process by which sparse particles and energy around Earth collide producing a quick but mighty explosion--in the Earth's magnetotail, the magnetic environment that trails behind the planet.

Magnetic reconnection has remained a bit of a mystery to scientists. They know it exists and have documented the effects that the energy explosions can...

Im Focus: A Chip with Blood Vessels

Biochips have been developed at TU Wien (Vienna), on which tissue can be produced and examined. This allows supplying the tissue with different substances in a very controlled way.

Cultivating human cells in the Petri dish is not a big challenge today. Producing artificial tissue, however, permeated by fine blood vessels, is a much more...

Im Focus: A Leap Into Quantum Technology

Faster and secure data communication: This is the goal of a new joint project involving physicists from the University of Würzburg. The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research funds the project with 14.8 million euro.

In our digital world data security and secure communication are becoming more and more important. Quantum communication is a promising approach to achieve...

Im Focus: Research icebreaker Polarstern begins the Antarctic season

What does it look like below the ice shelf of the calved massive iceberg A68?

On Saturday, 10 November 2018, the research icebreaker Polarstern will leave its homeport of Bremerhaven, bound for Cape Town, South Africa.

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Optical Coherence Tomography: German-Japanese Research Alliance hosted Medical Imaging Conference

19.11.2018 | Event News

“3rd Conference on Laser Polishing – LaP 2018” Attracts International Experts and Users

09.11.2018 | Event News

On the brain’s ability to find the right direction

06.11.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Nonstop Tranport of Cargo in Nanomachines

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

Researchers find social cultures in chimpanzees

20.11.2018 | Life Sciences

When AI and optoelectronics meet: Researchers take control of light properties

20.11.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>