On the Air: March 24, 2015
A hydrothermal vent chimney at the Endeavour Segment, with red and white tube worms colonizing the area. Credit: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A slice of the ocean floor off the coast of Washington State is like a scene from a fantasy land. Tapered spires climb high above the seabed, with some of them shooting boiling-hot water into the frigid depths. Tubeworms and other exotic life surround the spires. And small tremors jiggle the whole tableau several times a day.

In Print: March 1, 2015
This sea star is suffering from wasting disease, which causes sea stars to disintegrate in a matter of days. Credit: Kevin Lafferty, USGS.

When a sea star (a.k.a. starfish) develops wasting syndrome, the disease hits hard and fast. Lesions appear on the star’s tough outer skin. Then the tissue around those white sores begins to decay. The sea stars “deflate” and lose control of their five limbs, which curl and twist and eventually begin disintegrating. The starfish gradually “melts” into nothing.