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Oregon Divers Find Hope In Thousands Of Baby Sea Stars

Divers at the Oregon Coast Aquarium say they have new hope that sea stars will recover from the widespread wasting syndrome that's wiping them out all along the Pacific coast.

This month they found thousands of thumbnail-sized juvenile sea stars, commonly called starfish, on the North Jetty in Florence.

Diver Jenna Walker said her team didn't recognize them as sea stars at first because there were so many, and they were so small.

"It was overwhelming," she said. "When we first got down there it looked like the rocks were covered with barnacles. We soon realized those white spots were thousands and thousands of stars. I have never seen them in numbers like that. It was pretty incredible."

The divers counted as many as 200 juvenile sea stars in a square meter. They were too small for the divers to identify their species. Adult sea stars were completely absent from the site.

It's difficult to determine where the new sea stars originated, according to Stuart Clausen, assistant curator of fishes and invertebrates for the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

"Sea stars start out as plankton and drift wherever currents will carry them," he said.

Clausen said the juveniles in Florence may be the first sign of sea star recovery in Oregon.

"We are not out of the woods yet, but it is encouraging," he said. "It means some adults survived or at least put viable gametes in the water before being affected."

Divers with the aquarium plan to monitor the juvenile sea stars in Florence with regular trips to the site in the coming months.

Watch Oregon Field Guide's 'Diving For Science'

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Divers measured as many as 200 juvenile sea stars in a square meter at a site on the North Jetty in Florence.
Courtesy of Oregon Coast Aquarium /
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Divers measured as many as 200 juvenile sea stars in a square meter at a site on the North Jetty in Florence.

Cassandra Profita