Sea Star Wasting Disease

Sea stars are dying off at dramatic rates across the West Coast from Baja California in Mexico to Alaska. The wasting disease that is affecting sea stars also is not specific to one species: more than 20 sea star species have been affected so far.

USGS scientists have been part of team studying this new epidemic. Scientists have found a densovirus that may be responsible for the sea star deaths: Sea Star Associated Densovirus (SSaDV).

Cooperative Research

Virus Calculated as Culprit Killing Sea Stars — Soundwaves Newsletter

Sea Star Wasting Syndrome — Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring

Nearshore Benthic Systems in the Gulf of Alaska — Gulf Watch Alaska


Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring: Trends and Synthesis

We do not know what is causing Sea Star Wasting Syndrome, and the cause may be different in different regions. The map below includes information from our regular intertidal monitoring surveys as well as information from logs submitted by other researchers, divers, and the general public

  • Publications

  • Science to Support Aquatic Animal Health

    Healthy aquatic ecosystems are home to a diversity of plants, invertebrates, fish and wildlife. Aquatic animal populations face unprecedented threats to their health and survival from climate change, water shortages, habitat alteration, invasive species and environmental contaminants. These environmental stressors can directly impact the prevalence and severity of disease in...

    USGS Fact Sheet 2016-3091, 2 p.

  • Densovirus associated with sea-star wasting disease and mass mortality

    Sea stars inhabiting the Northeast Pacific Coast have recently experienced an extensive outbreak of wasting disease, leading to their degradation and disappearance from many coastal areas. In this paper, we present evidence that the cause of the disease is transmissible from disease-affected animals to apparently healthy individuals, that the disease-causing agent is a virus-sized microorganism, and that the best candidate viral taxon, the sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV), is in greater abundance in diseased than in healthy sea stars.

    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, v. 111, no. 48, December 2014