Researchers have recently closed some key knowledge gaps in understanding of the early stages of the coral-eating starfish’s lifecycle. Little was previously known of the species’ juvenile life. As part of a coordinated, collaborative research program targeted at filling important gaps in understanding, researchers have found that tiny juvenile starfish tend to be hidden amongst coral rubble and dead coral on the slopes of shallow coral reefs. Here, they eat coralline algae until they switch to a coral-eating diet and grow much larger, threatening live coral cover on reefs that have survived recent bleaching events. This work is part of an Integrated Pest Management research program, which has already revolutionised crown-of-thorns starfish control on the Great Barrier Reef.
Photo: David Westcott