Things That Fall Apart

Comet ISON.

A first-time visitor to our solar system and our star, the Sun, tried to melt ISON. I guess you can do whatever you want if you have that much gravity, but I was really looking forward to some good comet photos. Guess I’ll have to settle with the rough one I took one morning when ISON was making its appearance around dawn.

See the little green blip on the upper right? Yea…

The scientific community is still unsure of what happened to ISON. Something came around the other side of the Sun, but it isn’t a whole comet. As the common saying goes, a comet is in many ways like a cat. Maybe ISON will use up one of its nine lives?





Celestial-shaped marine dwellers are another type of thing falling apart around here.

Sea stars along the Pacific coast, from areas in Alaska to California, are showing signs of deterioration. Such signs come in the form of lesions, deflation, loss of arms, and total disintegration.  That’s right, they just fall apart. While ALIVE. This wasting syndrome has happened before and wiped out whole populations that took years to return.

If you can’t find it in your heart to sympathize with a creature whose mouth and anus are essentially the same hole, then at least you could find it concerning that the ochre sea star, one of almost a dozen species affected, is a keystone species, or one that many other species rely on to influence what happens in a specific ecological community. Around here, without a sea star or two [or twenty] in a tide pool, mussels will take over, pushing out barnacles and snails and limpets and the like, altering what the rocky shoreline normally hosts.

The University of California Santa Cruz is monitoring the populations to see if it becomes an outbreak, but all signs point to a gloomy outlook: reports from both coasts and even some around the globe are coming in. For more information, see UCSC’s site and if you happen to be along a beach with possibly sick sea stars, report it here [either on the map or in fancy, citizen science form.]




4 thoughts on “Things That Fall Apart

  1. Thanks for the heads up. Will keep an eye out up here on the SW OR coast. We did have a dead sea lion on the beach a few weeks ago. Don’t know if that should be reported, or not.

    • Yea, I’m not sure about the dead sea lion. Around here, there are volunteers, I believe working for Humboldt State University, that walk the beaches and tag dead birds and mammals [they mark them by leaving colored zip ties on them]. I wonder if OSU does the same type of thing in your neck of the coast.

  2. “If you can’t find it in your heart to sympathize with a creature whose mouth and anus are essentially the same hole, ” <<–This phrase made me snort a little bit.

    From what I've seen of sea stars (mostly on the North Jetty), they look perfectly healthy to me so far. I'll keep an eye out though.

    • Yea, the outbreaks are very pockety. Luffenholtz beach up by Trinidad had a report, and Agate Beach at Patricks Point likely had one, too. Apparently it happens fast though–just a couple of days to decompose!

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