back to article Has your STARFISH been DRIBBLING awful SLIME? Scientists now know WHY

American scientists have identified a mysterious seagoing virus which has caused millions of suffering starfish to "melt" into slime, strewing awful fluids all over the place. Boffins were baffled when they first saw the effects of the gruesome underwater epidemic. First an infected starfish's arms would fall off, before the …

  1. joeW

    So

    Not Fukushima Fallout then? I'll be over here waiting for the hippy sites to publish corrections.

    1. Ken Y-N
      Black Helicopters

      I'll probably get depressed if I search, but I suspect their new line will be "Fookooshimar Fallout caused the virus to mutate!"

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Overpopulation in Starfish?

    As I understand there has been a population explosion in starfish and viral or other disease outbreaks often follow these increases as a method of balancing the population.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. ratfox
        Headmaster

        "A method implies an actor"

        It's awfully hard to describe many natural processes as anything else than a method, even though there is no sentient actor involved. E.g you could read in a book "sweating is a method used by the body to regulate temperature", as if Mr body had decided to regulate its temperature, had tried different systems for getting rid of waste heat, and had settled on this one.

        The proper way to see it, of course, is that because of bits of DNA randomly generated millions of years ago, the way the body is built happens to include a system generating sweat, which happens to have the beneficial effect of getting rid of waste heat, which presumably led to the survival of this body over all the bodies which did not happen to include this sweat generation system. But since it's impossible to think of it that way without feeling like a random chemical process, we tend to prefer more active words, like "method".

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. JDEvolutionist

            Re: "A method implies an actor"

            Darwin was wrong to say that Natural Selection superseded conditions of existence and unity of type.

            In my terms, Condition of Existence is the driver of evolution and not Natural Selection and it IS random. With hindsight everything appears to be deterministic but at the time immediately prior to entering the present in any location the condition that will exist is both unknown and unknowable for all components entering that existence and MUST, I believe, consequentially be random. Change (mutation) is constant and 'stable' components of existence enter the present, their new existence, with a high degree of probability that their new 'present' condition will tolerate their existing state, hence giving rise to the expectation of continuity of form and the appearance of non-random being. However the realisation that the new condition is itself a product that IS random means that the influence it has on its components must be random. The components of existence have varying degrees of tolerance to the prevailing Condition of Existence, the greater the tolerance the higher the likelihood of continuation of form for the individual components into the future (e.g. simplistically, liquid water has a tolerance range governed by temperature and pressure) but the process IS random.

            (Many will contest the assertion that Condition of Existence is the driver of evolution but for me Condition of Existence preceded Natural Selection, the evolutionary process of components of existing possessing the attributes of life, it is more fundamental; evolution is the process of existence not just of life forms; although the primary concepts are the same.)

        2. Chemist

          Re: "A method implies an actor"

          ""sweating is a method used by the body to regulate temperature""

          "sweating is a mechanism used by the body to regulate temperature"

          1. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

            Re: "A method implies an actor"

            "sweating is a mechanism used by the body to regulate temperature"

            Aha, I sense the need for an engineer-mechanic here...

            1. frank ly

              Re: "A method implies an actor"

              It sounds like a job for a blind watchmaker or some kind of intelligent designer.

  3. Crisp

    "There are ten million viruses in a drop of sea water"

    So more like searching for a needle in a needle stack then?

    1. Robert Helpmann??
      Childcatcher

      Re: "There are ten million viruses in a drop of sea water"

      My first thought was to wonder why they are looking in the sea water for the culprit virus rather than an infected starfish. After all, they should be easy to spot with no arms.

    2. stucs201
      Headmaster

      Re: a needle in a needle stack

      A specific needle in a needle stack. Just finding a needle is easy. It's getting the right one that's tricky.

  4. TRT
    IT Angle

    I mean, it's interesting and all, but...

    where's the IT angle?

    1. Thecowking

      Re: I mean, it's interesting and all, but...

      Not posted under the science section?

      Like all the other IT on this tech and science site.

    2. Alistair
      Coat

      Re: I mean, it's interesting and all, but...

      Perhaps they made use of exotic compute power to correlate the data. mmmhm, yup.

    3. Tom 7

      Re: I mean, it's interesting and all, but...

      No IT angle but a killer opportunity for a fine headline.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I mean, it's interesting and all, but...

      Perhaps they didn't keep the signatures up to date.

    5. DNTP

      IT angle

      Well it sure helped me fix my starfish.

      …you don't have a starfish tank? In the server room? Anyone?

      1. TRT

        Re: IT angle

        No starfish tank, but I do have a coral drawer.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    oh joy

    When will it cross over to humans?

    1. VinceH

      Re: oh joy

      "When will it cross over to humans?"

      Once it's been suitably adapted in a lab funded by the Overpuddlian military.

      But don't worry, it won't get released until they need to distract us from something else.

    2. kend1
      Joke

      Re: oh joy

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geneva_Protocol, addenum -- 2014/11/18: and no face melting

    3. TRT

      Re: oh joy

      My brown starfish has been leaking away for a while now.

  6. Anomalous Cowshed

    There are ten million viruses in a drop of sea water, so the discovery of a virus that is responsible for the illness of a sea creature was like searching for a needle in a haystack.

    How about searching in the sea creature itself then, instead of the sea water (just a suggestion).

    1. Grikath

      They do, and [assorted boffinry]. The problem lies in actually isolating a strain. It's easy to get a blip saying "yup, the same agent is in there *somewhere*..." . Isolating the strain and proving it does indeed melt starfish is quite another matter.

  7. Neoc

    I wonder...

    ...any use against the Crown-of-thorns starfish which is damaging the Great Barrier Reef?

    1. MrDamage Silver badge

      Re: I wonder...

      Given our track record with the cane toad, it will probably denude the reefs, infect the fish, and then go along despoiling the flesh of the beauties who like to give their white pointers some time in the sun.

  8. PaulR79
    Coat

    I'm mature

    "in the journal PNAS." I read through all the comments on view and nobody else mentioned it. Am I the only one that reads that as... I am? OK carry on, I'll let myself out.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get very small amount of fluid from wild sick starfish #1 and inject into healthy aquarium bred starfish #2. #2 gets sick. Get very small amount of fluid from starfish #2 and inject into healthy aquarium bred starfish #3. Starfish #3 only exposed to a very very very small amount of the original atoms from starfish #1. If the effect on starfish #3 is the same, then you can rule out radioactivity because any isotopes would be diluted to extremely low levels both in the body of starfish #2 as well as diffuse into the water of aquarium.

    for confirmation, seal the fluid from starfish #1 in a sealed vial then sterilize it with heat. Inject into starfish #2 which remains healthy. Radioactivity would not be removed by heat

    this has been done (see the picture in the article linked below) so its unlikely to be radioactivity

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/scientists-solve-mystery-of-west-coast-starfish-deaths/

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like