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Mystery Starfish Killer Lurks Along Entire West Coast

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Marine biologists say a deadly wasting disease has infected starfish from Mexico to Alaska. (Getty Images)

Marine biologists say a deadly wasting disease has infected starfish from Mexico to Alaska. (Getty Images)

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PORTLAND, Ore. (CBS Seattle) – With the discovery of a mysterious illness that turns starfish into goo along the Oregon coast, scientists say the wasting disease has now spread from Mexico to Alaska, reports Live Science.

“The percentages we saw last week, they were as high as 40 to 60 percent of the population that’s showing signs of wasting,” said Bruce Menge, a marine biologist at Oregon State University.

Dubbed “Starfish Wasting Syndrome,” the disease kills by causing the animal’s body to disintegrate.

The early signs are subtle, the sea star appears to fold its arms, then white lesions appear which turn into holes. The holes seem to expand until it seems to destroy itself. Sometimes the sstarfish’s limbs pull away from the rest of the body.

“We’ve seen a number of cases where all that’s left is a puddle of their skeletal parts and a bunch of bacteria eating away at the tissue,” Menge told Live Science. “It’s a pretty gruesome thing to see.”

The disease was first recorded last year off the coast of Washington. Marine biologists are desperately trying to discover its cause.

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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