When millions of starfish began spontaneously disintegrating along the West Coast of North America last summer, scientists were at a loss. Was it environmental? A bacteria? Or something anthropogenic? The offender, it turns out, was a previously unknown virus that essentially turns sea stars into “goo,” according to a new study published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The virus belongs to a group of viruses known to cause gastrointestinal symptoms in unvaccinated dogs, according to National Geographic. Scientists named the virus sea star-associated densovirus. Similar viruses have been found in other echinoderms, including sea urchins and sea cucumbers.