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Oregon Coast Aquarium staff found 25 endangered sunflower sea stars near Newport

 A hand is under a 3-4 inch wide sea star with about 12 legs, in shallow water.
Oregon Coast Aquarium
This sunflower sea star, about six inches across, may have been the adult that spawned the others that were found in Yaquina Bay.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium has inspiring news for an endangered ocean invertebrate. Over two dozen sunflower sea stars have been found near Newport.

From 2013 to 2017, an estimated 90 percent of West Coast sunflower sea stars fell victim to a wasting syndrome. The world’s largest sea star, they can grow up to four feet across and have as many as 26 arms. They’re voracious predators of sea urchins, and help to maintain healthy kelp forests.

Oregon Coast Aquarium staff recently went to Yaquina Bay. Spokesperson Courtney Klug said they were surprised to find a young sunflower sea star, less than three inches across.

“As soon as they saw that first one, they kept their eyes peeled," she said. "And then they were finding one over there, one over there. I mean, you heard aquarists calling down the beach, ‘There’s a sunflower sea star here!’ It was incredibly exciting. And all together we found 25, one of which was an adult.”

Klug said it’s encouraging news for the recovery of a keystone species.

The stars can be purple, white or sand colored. Charmingly, a group of them is called a “galaxy.” Klug said the largest one they found was six inches across and could have been the adult that spawned the smaller stars.

She said if beachgoers spot a Sunflower Sea Star, they should keep their distance, take a picture if possible, and let the aquarium know. Every sighting provides helpful information.

Oregon Coast Aquarium staffer Tiffany Rudek recently developed a treatment for the symptoms of Sea Star Wasting Syndrome. It can be used for the aquarium's own collection.

Karen Richards joined KLCC as a volunteer reporter in 2012, and became a freelance reporter at the station in 2015. In addition to news reporting, she’s contributed to several feature series for the station, earning multiple awards for her reporting.
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