A key starfish is now under threat of extinction, the government says

A sunflower sea star at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport. 

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced this week that it is proposing to list the sunflower sea star as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, a status that suggests this crucial ocean species is only steps away from extinction.

Over the past decade, a mysterious disease has devastated the starfish's population. The decline is not only a disaster for the sea stars. Their disappearance also threatens to worsen the effects of climate change by degrading underwater kelp forests that suck up carbon dioxide.

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