Data from: Reciprocal abundance shifts of the intertidal sea stars, Evasterias troschelii and Pisaster ochraceus, following sea star wasting disease


Disease emergence occurs within the context of ecological communities, and disease driven declines in host populations can lead to complex direct and indirect ecological effects. Varying effects of a single disease among multiple susceptible hosts could benefit relatively resistant species. Beginning in 2013, an outbreak of sea star wasting disease (SSWD) led to population declines of many sea star species along the west coast of North America. Through field surveys and laboratory experiments, we investigated how and why the relative abundances of two co-occurring sea star species, Evasterias troschelii and Pisaster ochraceus, shifted during the ongoing wasting epidemic in Burrard Inlet, British Columbia, Canada. We hypothesized that Evasterias is competitively inferior to Pisaster but more resistant to SSWD. Thus, we predicted that SSWD-induced declines of Pisaster could mitigate the negative effects of SSWD on Evasterias, as the latter would experience competitive release. We document shifts in sea star abundance from 2007-2017: Pisaster abundance and mean size declined during the outbreak, while Evasterias abundance increased from relatively rare to numerically dominant within the intertidal. When exposed to symptomatic sea stars, Pisaster and Evasterias both showed signs of SSWD, but transmission and susceptibility was lower in Evasterias. Despite diet overlap documented in our field surveys, Evasterias was not outcompeted by Pisaster in laboratory trails conducted with the relatively small Pisaster available after the outbreak. Interference competition with larger Pisaster, or prey exploitation by Pisaster during summer when Evasterias is primarily subtidal, may explain the rarity of Evasterias prior to Pisaster declines. Our results suggest that indirect effects mediated by competition can mask some of the direct effects of disease outbreaks, and the combination of direct and indirect effects will determine the restructuring of a community after disturbance.

Metadata Access
Creator Harley, Christopher;Gehman, Alyssa-Lois;Kay, Sharon
Publisher Data Archiving and Networked Services (DANS)
Publication Year 2019
Rights info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess
Resource Type Dataset
Discipline Medicine
Temporal Point 2019-04-10T11:59:59Z