A world-first study of the Great Barrier Reef found that starfishes have the ability to find their own way home ̵1; a behavior previously unrecognized – but only if their neighborhood has a favorite food. of them: coral.
Australian researchers watched starfish emerge from their shelters in the afternoon so they can forage at night, before returning home at dawn.
“The starfish often party all night, sleep well, and only those with full lard will find their way home – so it’s a lot like a teenage behavior pattern,” says lead author Tien Dr. Scott Ling from the Journal of the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania.
“Their favorite prey is the Acropora coral,” said co-author Professor Morgan Pratchett from the ARC James Cook University’s ARC Center for Coral Reef Research (CoralCoE at JCU). Acropora is an important coral species – for the past two million years, they’ve been the building block of coral reefs around the world.
“When the Acropora population decreases, the starfish do not return home,” said Professor Pratchett. “Their behavior is directly related to the local abundance of Acropora.”
The results of the study show that healthy coral reefs with high coverage of these corals can encourage agglomeration and disease outbreaks. Outbreaks caused widespread coral loss, spreading and extending across the Indo-Pacific region.
Similar examples of predator infestation causing environmental destruction include sea urchins overgrazing in kelp forests and coral reef fish feeding on seagrass patches.
The researchers used time-lapse photography to track the movement of 58 starfishes in the Great Barrier Reef north and south during the 2015 outbreak. In the absence of their favorite Acropora coral prey, starfish are often homeless and instead roam up to 20 meters a day.
“Unlike sea urchins that can switch their diets when they overgrow kelp forests, time lapse results indicate that starfish will consume available Acropora and eventually feed on their own. meat outside the house before scattering to find a new place to eat “, PhD. Ling said.
Previous outbreaks on the Great Barrier Reef were recorded in 1962, 1979, 1993 and 2009. Although mass bleaching of corals due to global warming is the greatest threat to With coral reefs around the world, the combined effects of mass bleaching and crown of thorns are potentially catastrophic for coral reefs.
Professor Pratchett said: “By better understanding the behavior of these starfish, we can help prevent and control their outbreaks, which will help ease the stress on reefs. Coral.
The research is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Association B.
Hidden Army: Starfish can increase in number to attack coral reefs
The oncoming behavior of the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish is triggered by the availability of local coral prey, Proceedings of the Royal Association B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing. or… .1098 / rspb.2020.1341
Provided by the ARC Center for Excellence in Coral Reef Research
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