The researchers, from universities in North America and elsewhere, focused on the hard-hit common sunflower seastar (Pycnopodia helianthoides), which has now been eradicated across most of its range.
The researchers found that divers were less likely to see living seastars in nearshore waters when water temperatures were abnormally high. Determining why warm waters should have this effect was outside the scope of the study but they speculated that elevated temperatures affected the seastars’ simple immune systems.
The survey also confirmed that the mass die-off of starfish was having a domino effect on oceanic eco-systems. Without starfish to prey on them, kelp-eating sea urchins were proliferating – and eating their way unchecked through the kelp-forest habitats on which many other species depend.
The research is published in Science Advances.
- THE BRITISH SCUBA DIVER who died in Tenerife following a heart attack on 14 February, as reported on Divernet, has been named as Andrew Littler, a driver from Coalville, Leics. He was on holiday with his wife to celebrate their 32nd wedding anniversary.