Massive starfish die-off near British Columbia baffles scientists

The Extinction Protocol

September 12, 2013CANADAThe waters off British Columbia, Canada, are littered with dead starfish, and researchers have no idea what’s causing the deaths. At the end of August, marine biologist and scuba enthusiast Jonathan Martin was out on his usual Saturday dive with some friends when he noticed something unusual. “We just started noticing dead starfish that looked like they had their arms chopped off,” Martin said. They were sunflower starfish (Pycnopodia helianthoides), a major marine predator in the area that feeds mostly on sea urchins and snails. Like most starfish, the sunflower starfish can regenerate lost limbs—it can have up to 20—and can grow to be up to three feet (a meter) across. Since Martin was diving in an area frequented by crabbers, at first he thought the sunflower starfish had gotten caught in some of the crab traps and had lost limbs escaping…

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