Sea stars of the past help solve scientific questions of today


As voracious predators, sea stars are key players in maintaining the biodiversity in their ecosystems. The creatures can also give scientists hints about what climate change is doing to their homes in the rocky intertidal; and on the West Coast, sea stars have been having a rough time.

Besides a sea star epidemic that has wiped out populations up and down the West Coast, researchers at San Francisco State University (SFSU) have found some evidence using historical samples that climate change could be forcing sea stars to move their ranges north.

Laura Melroy, a master’s candidate in biology at SFSU’s Romberg Tiburon Center, used DNA samples to build a map of sea stars through space and time. In the future, the DNA may also help scientists predict how sea stars will react to changing conditions.

Check out the video above to see how 100 years of sea stars has helped Melroy understand the present.

(Homepage photo courtesy of Richard Coleman.)