HARLINGEN, Texas (AP) — A combination of weather conditions has stranded thousands of starfish along the beaches of an island in South Texas, near the border with Mexico.
High winds, rough seas and strong currents caused the mass stranding of the marine creatures at South Padre Island, east of Brownsville, the Valley Morning Star of Harlingen (http://bit.ly/1fx9pHf ) reported.
The starfish live on the sand bar system near the beaches of this resort town. They started washing ashore on Jan. 26.
It was initially thought that the beaching was caused by lower-than-usual water temperatures brought by the cold temperatures affecting the area last week. However, Tony Reisinger, Cameron County extension agent with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University, said it was Dr. David Hicks, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at Brownsville, who came up with the explanation.
Hicks cites a combination of weather factors and the possibility that the starfish were feeding on shallow waters at the time.
Reisinger wrote on the Texas Coastal Naturalist Facebook page that there are three other instances of mass mortalities of Gray sea stars in the northern Gulf of Mexico reported in unpublished literature.
Gray sea stars are found in shallow coastal waters from Virginia to Brazil, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. They live in muddy or sandy bottoms where they feed on clams and other small bivalves.
Information from: Valley Morning Star, http://www.valleystar.com