Echinoderms are recognizable by their (usually five-point) radial symmetry, and include such well-known animals as sea stars (commonly called starfish), sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers. The phylum Echinodermata contains about 7000 living species, twenty-one of which may be found in the intertidal zone at Point Reyes National Seashore.
Sea star wasting disease garnered media attention in late 2013 and early 2014. Sea star wasting disease is a general description of a set of symptoms that are found in sea stars. Typically, lesions appear in the ectoderm followed by decay of tissue surrounding the lesions, which leads to eventual fragmentation of the body and death. Scientists at UC Santa Cruz and partners are continuing to investigate a coast-wide die off of sea stars along the west coast of the US. There has been some evidence of wasting disease at Point Reyes this year and anecdotal declines in numbers of sea stars in some locations. However, it is unknown if these types of die-offs are relatively natural (there were similar events in 1983 and 1997) or how quickly populations can recover post-disease. For additional details, visit UC Santa Cruz's Sea Star Wasting Syndrome page.