It was a surreal and somewhat ghostly sight: that of perhaps 50,000 starfish that somehow had come ashore overnight, en masse, and perished on a secluded beach in Ireland. The Belfast Telegraph reports that harsh weather might have been responsible for last week's peculiar and mysterious event, on Lissadell Beach.
Bill Crowe, a marine biologist at Sligo Institute of Technology, theorized that the starfish (also called sea stars) might have been lifted ashore while feeding on mussel beds in the near shore tidal zone. They were spread over nearly 500 feet of coastline.
"The most likely explanation is that they were feeding on mussels, but it is a little strange that none of them were attached to mussels when they were washed in," Crowe said.
A toxic algae bloom would seem another possible explanation, but no other type of marine life was affected. Only starfish, mostly adult size, were found on the beach.
Equally mysterious is that virtually all of the starfish were dead, meaning they had succumbed surprisingly quickly after coming or being delivered ashore.