Video number six! This week’s feature is the kingly Sunflower Star. Once the ruler of local sea floors, they have been usurped by the urchins with the help of a mysterious virus.
Fun facts about Sunflower Stars:
How big do Sunflower Stars grow?
Sunflower sea stars can grow up to 1 meter across! This makes them the largest species of sea star in the world! Another local species, the Spiny Pink Star, grows up to 0.9 meters across. In addition to being the largest, the Sunflower star is also among the fastest! Sunflower stars can travel up to 1 meter per minute.
Why don’t we see Sunflower Stars that often anymore?
A mysterious disease known as Sea Star Wasting Syndrome (SWSS) has decimated populations of over 20
species of local sea star, and the Sunflower Star was among those hit the hardest. Populations from
Alaska to California have been to 95 to 100% below previous population levels.
What effects has this had on the Discovery Passage?
In the absence of the Sunflower Star, sea urchin populations populations have exploded. There is very little keeping them from munching down local kelp forests, which are a crucial nursery ground and habitat for countless species of fish and invertebrate species. Local scuba divers have reported signs of disease in urchin populations, which may be the result of urchin overcrowding and insufficient food to go around. Time will tell if sea urchins will suffer the same fate as the Sunflower Star.
Are Sunflower Stars coming back?
At this time the future of the Sunflower Star is uncertain. In some areas, including the Discovery Passage, adult Sunflower Stars are still seen, however in numbers nowhere near where they used to be. Researchers are working very hard to find solutions to the wasting epidemic, one of which involves the captive breeding of sea stars!
What can I do to help?
During the summer months the Discovery Passage Aquarium hosts sea star surveys on weekends at Willow Point Reef. We are documenting the health of intertidal sea star populations and tracking their recovery. If you are interested in joining us for surveys this summer, send us an email at Volunteers@DiscoveryPassageAquarium.ca!
Weekly Video Series Activities!
We have a colouring page drawn specifically for this week! You can find the Sunflower Star colouring page at the link below. Send us your completed colouring page and win a day pass to the Aquarium for when we re-open!
Send us your completed colouring page by email at: info@DiscoveryPassageAquarium.ca
Or tag us in your Instagram Post: @DPAquarium #DPAquarium
Or send it to us in a message on Facebook: DiscoveryPassageAquarium
Be sure to do so before 10:00AM, Monday, May 18th so we can feature you on our Monday social media posts!