Juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish will eat almost anything to survive
News story from University of Sydney
Photo taken at One Tree Island on the Great Barrier Reef where the University of Sydney operates a Research Station
New research from Dione Deaker, a PhD student at the University of Sydney, and her adviser Professor Maria Byrne, along with colleagues at the National Marine Science Centre, Coffs Harbour, adds another piece to the crown-of-thorns puzzle.
The research team has already shown that baby starfish can survive on algae for up to six and a half years instead of switching to a coral diet at four months of age, per their typical growth pattern. Now, they have discovered that juveniles can eat a range of algae, not just the algae they are thought to prefer; crustose coralline algae. They can even subsist on biofilm – microorganisms that cover the sea floor, including bacteria and protists – to avoid starvation.
“The diet flexibility of juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish complicates our ability to age this species and, therefore, our ability to predict devastating outbreaks of adults on reefs,” Ms Deaker said.