Starfish Deaths Are a Mystery


British Columbia, Canada waters are becoming engorged with lifeless starfish and investigators do not have any idea what is causing them to perish. These starfish deaths are a complete mystery.

A noted scuba diver and marine biologist, Jonathan Martin, from Toronto, went out on his normal dive this past Saturday morning along with a group of friends when he saw something strange in the water. The divers accompanying him started to see numerous dead starfish that appeared to look like they had had their arms cut off. The divers realized they had a mystery on their hands: the deaths of all these starfish.

The starfish were a certain kind known as sunflower starfish. Their scientific name is Pycnopodia Helianthoides. They are big marine scavengers located in the area which eat mainly snails and sea urchins. Like the majority of starfish, the sunflower type is able to regrow any lost limbs. They might have up to 20 limbs that can grow to reach three to four feet.

Martin and his friends were all diving in a location which was visited very often by crabbers, so in the beginning he believed the sunflower starfish had perhaps gotten trapped in some of the crab harnesses and then lost limbs trying to escape. Yet he continued to see large numbers of dead starfish as did his friends, and he dove a second time around a marina where crab fishing was prohibited. That was when the diver realized it was not the crab traps that were killing the starfish.

When he came back from his dive, Martin went to see some individuals at a local dive shop who were vigorous in working for marine conservation. Without any conclusive answer, he put up photographs on various social websites; photos that were taken at the marine park where he found most of the dead starfish, in hopes of trying to get any sort of answer from other people about what might possibly be happening. He stated that his pictures seemed to make other divers really take notice. He said that divers which lived near to him and also around the world told him they had been seeing things that were similar in nature.

Yet he still did not get any definite answers, so Martin sent a letter to a researcher who worked as an invertebrate expert at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. He told the researcher what he had seen and how the arms of the starfish had just seemed to crumble. He also said how death appeared to happen rapidly, and decomposition was happening to the starfish arms. These were seen still hanging on to rocks and pieces of skin were split open in an odd fashion

He also said that single starfish in the past had shown up appearing like this, but never had he seen so many in this amount of time. Martin explained about his first dive with friends and what they thought was the cause. Yet when they went to the second diving place and discovered that area did not allow for crab fishing, they knew their first hypothesis had been wrong.

The researcher had no answers for Martin but is starting an investigation into the matter. As for now, the starfish deaths will continue to be a mystery.

By: Kimberly Ruble


ABC News

CBS News

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