Project description:Sea star wasting disease (SSWD) first appeared in Oregon in April 2014, and by June had spread to most of the coast. Although delayed compared to areas to the north and south, SSWD was initially most intense in north and central Oregon and spread southward. Up to 90% of individuals showed signs of disease from June-August 2014. In rocky intertidal habitats, populations of the dominant sea star Pisaster ochraceus were rapidly depleted, with magnitudes of decline in density among sites ranging from -2x to -9x (59 to 84%) and of biomass from -2.6x to -15.8x (60 to 90%) by September 2014. The frequency of symptomatic individuals declined over winter and persisted at a low rate through the spring and summer 2015 (~5-15%, at most sites) and into fall 2015. Disease expression included six symptoms: initially with twisting arms, then deflation and/or lesions, lost arms, losing grip on substrate, and final disintegration. SSWD was disproportionally higher in orange individuals, and higher in tidepools. Although historically P. ochraceus recruitment has been low, from fall 2014 to spring 2015 an unprecedented surge of sea star recruitment occurred at all sites, ranging from ~7x to 300x greater than in 2014. The loss of adult and juvenile individuals in 2014 led to a dramatic decline in predation rate on mussels compared to the previous two decades. A proximate cause of wasting was likely the "Sea Star associated Densovirus" (SSaDV), but the ultimate factors triggering the epidemic, if any, remain unclear. Although warm temperature has been proposed as a possible trigger, SSWD in Oregon populations increased with cool temperatures. Since P. ochraceus is a keystone predator that can strongly influence the biodiversity and community structure of the intertidal community, major community-level responses to the disease are expected. However, predicting the specific impacts and time course of change across west coast meta-communities is difficult, suggesting the need for detailed coast-wide investigation of the effects of this outbreak.
Project description:Sea star wasting disease (SSWD) describes a suite of disease signs believed to have led to catastrophic die-offs in many asteroid species, beginning in 2013. While most studies have focused on large, easily visible sea stars with widely-dispersing larvae, less information is available on the effect of this disease outbreak on smaller sea star species, such as the six-armed sea star Leptasterias spp. Unlike many larger sea stars, Leptasterias brood non-feeding young instead of broadcast-spawning planktonic larvae. Limited dispersal and thus limited gene flow may make these sea stars more vulnerable to local selective pressures, such as disease outbreaks. Here, we examined Leptasterias populations at sites along the California coast and documented abundance changes coincident with recent Pacific coast SSWD in 2014. Detection of Leptasterias in central California declined, and Leptasterias were not detected at multiple sites clustered around the San Francisco Bay outflow in the most recent surveys. Additionally, we categorized disease signs in Leptasterias in the field and laboratory, which mirrored those seen in larger sea stars in both settings. Finally, we found that magnesium chloride (MgCl2) slowed the progression of physical deterioration related to SSWD when applied to sea stars in the laboratory, suggesting that MgCl2 may prolong the survival of diseased individuals.
Project description:The etiology of sea star wasting syndrome is hypothesized to be caused by a densovirus, sea star-associated densovirus (SSaDV), that has previously been reported on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of the United States. In this study, we reevaluated the presence of SSaDV among sea stars from the North American Atlantic Coast and in doing so discovered a novel densovirus that we have named Asterias forbesi-associated densovirus (AfaDV), which shares 78% nucleotide pairwise identity with SSaDV. In contrast to previous studies, SSaDV was not detected in sea stars from the North American Atlantic Coast. Using a variety of PCR-based techniques, we investigated the tissue tropism, host specificity, and prevalence of AfaDV among populations of sea stars at five locations along the Atlantic Coast. AfaDV was detected in three sea star species (Asterias forbesi, Asterias rubens, and Henricia sp.) found in this region and was highly prevalent (>80% of individuals tested; n?=?134), among sampled populations. AfaDV was detected in the body wall, gonads, and pyloric caeca (digestive gland) of specimens but was not detected in their coelomic fluid. A significant difference in viral load (copies mg-1) was found between tissue types, with the pyloric caeca having the highest viral loads. Further investigation of Asterias forbesi gonad tissue found germ line cells (oocytes) to be virus positive, suggesting a potential route of vertical transmission. Taken together, these observations show that the presence of AfaDV is not an indicator of sea star wasting syndrome because AfaDV is a common constituent of these animals' microbiome, regardless of health.IMPORTANCE Sea star wasting syndrome is a disease primarily observed on the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of North America that has significantly impacted sea star populations. The etiology of this disease is unknown, although it is hypothesized to be caused by a densovirus, SSaDV. However, previous studies have not found a correlation between SSaDV and sea star wasting syndrome on the North American Atlantic Coast. This study suggests that this observation may be explained by the presence of a genetically similar densovirus, AfaDV, that may have confounded previous studies. SSaDV was not present in sea stars screened in this study, and instead, AfaDV was commonly found in sea star populations across the New England region, with no apparent signs of disease. These results suggest that sea star densoviruses may be common constituents of the animals' microbiome, and the diversity and extent of these viruses among wild populations may be greater than previously recognized.
Project description:Disturbances such as disease can reshape communities through interruption of ecological interactions. Changes to population demographics alter how effectively a species performs its ecological role. While a population may recover in density, this may not translate to recovery of ecological function. In 2013, a sea star wasting syndrome outbreak caused mass mortality of the keystone predator Pisaster ochraceus on the North American Pacific coast. We analyzed sea star counts, biomass, size distributions, and recruitment from long-term intertidal monitoring sites from San Diego to Alaska to assess regional trends in sea star recovery following the outbreak. Recruitment, an indicator of population recovery, has been spatially patchy and varied within and among regions of the coast. Despite sea star counts approaching predisease numbers, sea star biomass, a measure of predation potential on the mussel Mytilus californianus, has remained low. This indicates that post-outbreak populations have not regained their full predation pressure. The regional variability in percent of recovering sites suggested differences in factors promoting sea star recovery between regions but did not show consistent patterns in postoutbreak recruitment on a coast-wide scale. These results shape predictions of where changes in community composition are likely to occur in years following the disease outbreak and provide insight into how populations of keystone species resume their ecological roles following mortality-inducing disturbances.
Project description:Mass mortalities in natural populations, particularly those that leave few survivors over large spatial areas, may cause long-term ecological perturbations. Yet mass mortalities may remain undocumented or poorly described due to challenges in responding rapidly to unforeseen events, scarcity of baseline data, and difficulties in quantifying rare or patchily distributed species, especially in remote or marine systems. Better chronicling the geographic pattern and intensity of mass mortalities is especially critical in the face of global changes predicted to alter regional disturbance regimes. Here, we couple replicated post-mortality surveys with preceding long-term surveys and historical data to describe a rapid and severe mass mortality of rocky shore invertebrates along the north-central California coast of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. In late August 2011, formerly abundant intertidal populations of the purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus, a well-known ecosystem engineer), and the predatory six-armed sea star (Leptasterias sp.) were functionally extirpated from ~100 km of coastline. Other invertebrates, including the gumboot chiton (Cryptochiton stelleri) the ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus), and subtidal populations of purple sea urchins also exhibited elevated mortality. The pattern and extent of mortality suggest the potential for long-term population, community, and ecosystem consequences, recovery from which may depend on the different dispersal abilities of the affected species.
Project description:The first signs of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) epidemic occurred in just few months in 2013 along the entire North American Pacific coast. Disease dynamics did not manifest as the typical travelling wave of reaction-diffusion epidemiological model, suggesting that other environmental factors might have played some role. To help explore how external factors might trigger disease, we built a coupled oceanographic-epidemiological model and contrasted three hypotheses on the influence of temperature on disease transmission and pathogenicity. Models that linked mortality to sea surface temperature gave patterns more consistent with observed data on sea star wasting disease, which suggests that environmental stress could explain why some marine diseases seem to spread so fast and have region-wide impacts on host populations.
Project description:Sea star wasting disease devastated intertidal sea star populations from Mexico to Alaska between 2013-15, but little detail is known about its impacts to subtidal species. We assessed the impacts of sea star wasting disease in the Salish Sea, a Canadian / United States transboundary marine ecosystem, and world-wide hotspot for temperate asteroid species diversity with a high degree of endemism. We analyzed roving diver survey data for the three most common subtidal sea star species collected by trained volunteer scuba divers between 2006-15 in 5 basins and on the outer coast of Washington, as well as scientific strip transect data for 11 common subtidal asteroid taxa collected by scientific divers in the San Juan Islands during the spring/summer of 2014 and 2015. Our findings highlight differential susceptibility and impact of sea star wasting disease among asteroid species populations and lack of differences between basins or on Washington's outer coast. Specifically, severe depletion of sunflower sea stars (Pycnopodia helianthoides) in the Salish Sea support reports of major declines in this species from California to Alaska, raising concern for the conservation of this ecologically important subtidal predator.
Project description:As keystone species, sea stars serve to maintain biodiversity and species distribution through trophic level interactions in marine ecosystems. Recently, Sea Star Wasting Disease (SSWD) has caused widespread mass mortality in several sea star species from the Pacific Coast of the United States of America (USA) and Asterias forbesi on the Atlantic Coast. A densovirus, named Sea Star associated Densovirus (SSaDV), has been associated with the wasting disease in Pacific Coast sea stars, and limited samples of A. forbesi. The goal of this research is to examine the pathogenesis of SSWD in A. forbesi on the Atlantic Coast of the USA and to determine if SSaDV is associated with the wasting disease in this species. Histological examination of A. forbesi tissues affected with SSWD showed cuticle loss, vacuolation and necrosis of epidermal cells, and oedema of the dermis, but no consistent evidence indicating the cause of the lesions. Challenge experiments by cohabitation and immersion in infected water suggest that the cause of SSWD is viral in nature, as filtration (0.22 ?m) of water from tanks with sea stars exhibiting SSWD did not prevent the transmission and progression of the disease. Death of challenged sea stars occurred 7-10 d after exposure to infected water or sea stars, and the infectivity crossed species (A. forbesi and Pateria miniata) with equal penetrance. Of the 48 stars tested by quantitative real time PCR, 29 (60%) were positive for the SSaDV VP1 gene. These stars represent field-collected sea stars from all geographical regions (South Carolina to Maine) in 2012-2015, as well as stars exposed to infected stars or water from affected tanks. However, a clear association between the presence of SSaDV and SSWD signs in experimental and field-collected A. forbesi was not found in this study.
Project description:In recent years, a massive mortality event has killed millions of sea stars, of many different species, along the Pacific coast of North America. This disease event, known as 'sea star wasting disease' (SSWD), is linked to viral infection. In one affected sea star (Pisaster ochraceus), previous work had identified that the elongation factor 1-? locus (EF1A) harbored an intronic insertion allele that is lethal when homozygous yet appears to be maintained at moderate frequency in populations through increased fitness for heterozygotes. The environmental conditions supporting this increased fitness are unknown, but overdominance is often associated with disease. Here, we evaluate populations of P. ochraceus to identify the relationship between SSWD and EF1A genotype. Our data suggest that there may be significantly decreased occurrence of SSWD in individuals that are heterozygous at this locus. These results suggest further studies are warranted to understand the functional relationship between diversity at EF1A and survival in P. ochraceus.
Project description:An overdominant mutation in an intron of the elongation factor 1-? (EF1A) gene in the sea star Pisaster ochraceus has shown itself to mediate tolerance to "sea star wasting disease", a pandemic that has significantly reduced sea star populations on the Pacific coast of North America. Here we use RNA sequencing of healthy individuals to identify differences in constitutive expression of gene regions that may help explain this tolerance phenotype. Our results show that individuals carrying this mutation have lower expression at a large contingent of gene regions. Individuals without this mutation also appear to have a greater cellular response to temperature stress, which has been implicated in the outbreak of sea star wasting disease. Given the ecological significance of P. ochraceus, these results may be useful in predicting the evolutionary and demographic future for Pacific intertidal communities.