Coral Reefs and the Crown-of-Thorn Starfish (outline #1)

This topic submitted by Emily Forbes ( forbesee@muohio) at 9:25 PM on 3/29/06.

Miami has 100s of acres of beautiful Natural Areas which lend themselves to research projects! (Quicktime movie~4 mb). On the same walk, I spotted my first garter snake of the spring! In another 1 mb quicktime movie, a pair of mallard ducks lands in Harkers Run in Bachelor Woods

Tropical Field Courses -Western Program-Miami University


This is a pretty basic outline. I would like to discuss the effects of the crown of thorns starfish on coral reefs and the problems that will occur if this coral predator is not stopped. I found this topic interesting because it is amazing how much that this little starfish can effect, from just the coral itself to tourism and even medicine.

I. Introduction- Background
A. What is a Crown of ThornŐs starfish?
1. Ancanthaster Planci- only poisonous starfish
2. Multi-colored w/thousands of 4-5 cm sharp poisonous spines
3. Average size 25-35 cm in diameter
4. Can not swim move on tubular feet located under each arm
B. Life Cycle of Crown of Thorns
1. External Fertilization
2. Maturity after 2 yrs. After 3-4 growth declines and enters senile phase
C. Location
1. Found in Indian and Pacific Oceans
2. Prefer deep water and sheltered areas with few pollutants
II. Effects on Coral Reefs
A. Coral Predator
1. Eat coral polyps and Acropora, do not eat brain or porite coral
2. Starfish climbs up on a coral and pulls its stomach out of its mouth with its tube feet. Secretes chemical that turns coral tissue to mush then digests the underlying coral tissue, leaves a white coral skeleton
3. Very toxic- secretes chemical called saponin that harms marine organisms and humans
4. Feared that COT will destroy structure of reef exposing coast to erosion and increased wave action
5. Coral reef communities never fully recover
III. Future Consequences
A. If COT is not stopped
1. Loss in tourism
2. Loss of shoreline protection
3. There will be costly research and control programs
4. Loss of organisms that live in reefs and negative effect on fish
5. Loss of educational benefits provided by coral reefs (like this class!)
IV. What to do about COT?
A. Predators
1. Only one predator as an adult- Giant Triton Shell
2. However, GTS is over fished and population is low so they can not control the COT population
B. Controlling the COT population
1. Inject starfish with copper sulfate
2. Use underwater fences
C. Cost
1. Millions of dollars- killing 3100 COTŐs costs $54000 and that covers ¸ square kilometer

I will submit my sources here, once I have found all seven so that there will be a complete set of sources.


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