Sea stars can be “drowned”. Organic matter, starfish that kill bacteria from oxygen breakdown

A healthy starfish is presented in the laboratory of Ian Husson. Starfish along the Pacific coast are less fortunate, as large amounts of organic matter can rob them of their ability to breathe. Loan: Ian Hughes Laboratory

For more than seven years, a mysterious wasting disease has almost wiped out starfish populations around the world. Some of these species are on the verge of extinction.

New research led by Cornell suggests that starfish victims of disease-eating starfish may actually be in a catastrophic respiratory condition, literally “drowning” in their own environment as microbial activity from nearby organic matter robs them of the warmth of the ocean at their ability to breathe.

“As humans, we breathe, we ventilate, we breathe, we breathe,” said Ian Hughes, a professor of microbiology at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “Sea stars distribute oxygen to their outer surface through tiny structures called papules, or rays of the skin.” “If the oxygen around the grandparents is not enough, the starfish can not breathe.”

“Evidence that microorganisms cause disease of starfish losses in the aquatic-animal interface” was published in the January 6, 2021 issue of the journal Boundaries of bacteriology,

According to Hughes, ocean conditions lead to the production of unusual amounts of organic matter, which, he said, promotes the growth of bacteria. Because bacteria consume organic matter, they consume oxygen in the water, creating a low-oxygen microenvironment that surrounds starfish, causing them to fade, discolor, swell, and curl or curl their limbs.

“It’s a cascade of problems that starts with a change in the environment,” Husson said, explaining that most of the organic matter comes from the release of microscopic algae, the release of zooplankton և egestion ներից and decaying animal carcasses. This stimulates a number of bacteria called copiotrophs, which survive on carbon and rapidly deplete organic matter.

He said that copiotrophs breathe, so when they absorb organic matter, they deplete the oxygen in the watery area of ​​the starfish.

“It is the concentration of organic matter in the water,” he said. “If you have healthy, dead and rotten starfish next to starfish, all that dead organic matter is diverted, igniting bacteria, creating a hypoxic environment. It seems that the disease is transmitted. “

Hughes said that while more scientific work needed to be done, “this transforms the debate over the ecology of marine diseases that has focused on pathogenic diseases,” he said. “Now we have to include microorganisms that do not directly cause pathology, as they can be the key to affecting the health of starfish.”

Reference. “Evidence that Animals in Water’s Microorganisms Cause Starfish Waste Disease” – Citlalli A. Aquino, Ryan M. Besemer, Christopher M. DeRito, Jan Kocian, Ian R. Porter, Peter T. Raimondi, Jordan E. Rede, Lauren M. Schiebelhut, Jed P. Sparks, John P. Wares and Ian Hewson, 6 January 2021, Boundaries of bacteriology,
DOI: 10.3389 / fmicb.2020.610009:

In addition to Hughes, Cornellians include Christopher M., a researcher in the Department of Microbiology. DeRito. Ian R. Porter, Clinical Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Jordan E. Rede, Postgraduate Student, Department of Microbiology; և ed եդ Փ. Sparks, Professor, Chair of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

Other investors include Citlalli A. Aquino, a graduate student at San Francisco State University, Ryan M. Bessemer, a bachelor’s student at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington; Jan Kochyan, diver և photographer; Peter Raymond, professor at Santa Cruz University in California; Lauren M. Schiebelhut, Postdoctoral Researcher, University of California, Merced; և P. Orgia University Professor John on P. Words.

The study was supported by the National Science Foundation and the US Geological Survey.

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