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As part of a multi-institutional collaborative effort to quickly respond to this unusual mortality event in sea stars, Seattle Aquarium divers collected healthy and diseased stars from the waters surrounding the Seattle Aquarium in late October. Aquarium divers also continued to monitor levels of disease along the waterfront.
The animals collected were sampled according to a protocol carefullydeveloped by several institutions, and samples were sent to our collaborators in New York at Cornell University and the Wildlife Conservation Society. The U.S. Geological Survey National Wildlife Health Center also became involved and helped to coordinate efforts and investigate other potential causes of disease, including toxins and fungal infections.
The condition has been labeled Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) and no definitive cause has yet been identified. Research by the Seattle Aquarium, in conjunction with numerous collaborators, continues.