Narrator: This is Science Today. Sea stars along the Pacific coast are dying by the thousands from a mysterious pathogen that causes the invertebrates to deteriorate. Marine biologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, are leading efforts to find the culprit and avoid catastrophic effects. The Ochre sea star, which is typically the first to get hit by the disease, has provided UC Davis scientists at the Bodega Bay Marine Lab with insight into climate change. Scientist Eric Sanford explains that the Ochre sea stars feed on mussels and provide habitat for a variety of species.
Sanford: So, through its effects on these mussels, this sea star can play a keystone role because it can change the way the whole rocky coast system looks and how it functions through its predation on these mussels. Just a few degrees of warming could stress the sea stars out, they eat fewer mussels and because of the important role that these mussels play in the community, it could really change the way this whole community functions.
Narrator: Meanwhile, UC Santa Cruz biologists are collecting samples up and down the coast to isolate the killer pathogen in the lab. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.