Zombie Starfish: Nature’s Undeadliest Catch

Education Family GeekMom Science

My four-year-old is really interested in sea creatures and in zombies. One of her very favorite water dwellers is the mysterious and lovely Sea Star (or the star formally known as fish).

In our morning search on Youtube we came across a true-to-life ‘Zombie Starfish’ mash up that peaked Ella’s curiosity. The video is from a BBC-two popular show called Nature’s Weirdest Events.

Just what is happening here? The images shows what looks to be Sea Stars actually ripping off their own limbs. If that wasn’t alarming enough, those limbs then look to crawl away, zombie like on their own. Could this be a real life undeadliest catch happening on the West Coast from Alaska to Mexico? My daughter wanted to know more.

Ella’s Sea star Zombie, I helped with the letter S. Photo Melody Mooney

The Sea Star wasting syndrome which hit a peak in 2014 has been studied by Pete Raimondi, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz and co-author of the new sea star study. It is now known that the underlying cause of the disease is the waterborne densovirus. The cause of the virus has not been determined but scientists are looking at a warming ocean, polluted shipping lanes and stressors in the coastal environments. There is more about Dr. Raimondi’s finding in this great article at Livescience.com

We were both intrigued and concerned for these stars of the sea. The good news is that large amounts of babies have been showing up. It is often the case when species are being threatened to reproduce. Scientists are hopeful that population on our west coast will see an increase.

This is definitely on our family radar and we will bring you any new information as we discover it. There are so many cool things about Sea Stars beyond just their zombie association.

Here are six amazing facts we found about Sea Stars:

  1. Sea Stars have no faces but have eyes in the tips of their arms
  2. Sea Stars can switch genders and be both male and female
  3. Sea Stars have no blood, no brains and operate on a water-vascular- system
  4. Sea Stars are fierce hunters with two stomachs
  5. Sea Stars have sticky feet covered in tubes that create foot glue
  6. Sea Stars are not always star-shaped and can have up to 20 arms.
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