• Reuters

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Scientists are struggling to find the cause of a disease that is killing off numerous species of starfish on both the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of North America, dispatching the five-armed creatures in a particularly gruesome way.

Researchers have ruled out some possible culprits, including fungi, some parasites and certain other microorganisms and are taking a hard look at whether viruses or bacteria may be to blame. The disease appeared last year.

The starfish are being obliterated by an unexplained wasting disease that causes white lesions to appear before the animal’s body sags and ruptures, spilling out its internal organs.

“Some of these species could actually go extinct,” said Cornell University ecologist Drew Harvell, one of the scientists involved in the loosely organized search for a cause.

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