A. Forbesi, the common sea star, are dying out in New England and possibly along the east coast. Help us figure out why and how to save them!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


At the Wessel lab, we have put our research into the A. forbesi problem on hold for a while because we are waiting for a response from the grant we applied for with several other collaborators from various RI institutions.  Hopefully we will receive the grant and be able to move forward with our project and experiments with funding.

Here's an update on news from others I have been hearing.

Most people are saying the A. forbesi issue is still continuing.  Some are collecting specimens and bringing them back to their respective tanks only to watch them fall apart and/or die in front of their eyes.  Others are having issues finding any forbesi to collect.  I visited the New England aquarium in Boston, which collects its specimens from the Gulf of Maine area, and noted that each tank that was labelled as holding forbesi (three in total) had a distinct absence of any forbesi, which leads me to make the educated guess that the forbesi are not doing so hot in that area, either in the ocean or once placed in the tanks.

One person has had better luck.  Mark Hall of Biomes Center in North Kingstown, RI has reported the following information.
  • In January last year, Mark's forbesi were all dying in his tanks.  He had a pathologist look at them and run some tests, but found nothing.
  • Most of Mark's forbesi did die last year, but a few survived.  These surviving forbesi have been one of the healthiest populations he has ever seen.  He believes that these forbesi that survived may have had an immunity to whatever was ailing them, which is why they are now so healthy.
  • Recently (this fall/winter) Mark has had better success with both collecting and caring for his A. forbesi.  They are abundant in the areas he collects them from around Rhode Island and he now has a flourishing population of at least 20 specimens, all in good condition and showing no signs of "wasting disease."
See http://www.biomescenter.com/ for more about Mark's Biomes Center.

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