Three years ago, there was a sudden explosion in the number of sunflower starfish off the British Columbia coast. But as quickly as they came, large amounts of the species have recently been found decomposing or dead in the same place they once bloomed.
As these starfish are lethal marine predators, their deaths will have an effect on other marine life, particularly their prey.
“The sunflower starfish is the terror of the shallow seas around here,” says Chris Harley, associate professor of ecology and evolution at the University of British Columbia. “The starfish mortality will allow sea urchins, clams and sea cucumbers to grow in number until the mortality ends.”
There have also been enormous die-offs of the morning sun star, which eats the sunflower starfish. It’s not known whether the deaths of the two species are connected.