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Crown-Of-Thorns starfish outbreaks damage coral reefs

Researchers have collected and published the best scientific research on preventing coral-eating Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) outbreaks. The book will be a critical resource for informing management across the Indo-Pacific of COTS outbreaks.

The new publication, “Biology, Ecology and Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish,” documents over 30 years of COTS research. The book explores scientific advances and emerging opportunities for targeted research.

The book is written by Professor Morgan Pratchett of James Cook University and Dr. Sven Uthicke of the Australian Institute of Marine Science, who are both world-renowned experts.

Professor Pratchett has researched COTS for the past two decades, and his work has greatly contributed to understanding both the causes and impacts of these outbreaks. He describes the COTS outbreaks as being “akin to locusts” and explained that there is still a lot to learn on the subject.

“Outbreaks occur on many reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific, including the Great Barrier Reef, and contribute to the widespread degradation of these valuable ecosystems,” said Professor Pratchett.

“Despite significant research on the biology and ecology of COTS, there are still some considerable knowledge gaps and opportunities for important discoveries. More than a thousand research papers have been written about these animals, reflecting the ecological impact and management concern surrounding COTS outbreaks.”

Dr. Uthicke is a biologist and geneticist, and his work is focused on the development of new genetic tools to examine the early life-history of COTS. He said that researchers must embrace advancing technologies and opportunities to gain insight into COTS biology and behavior.

“We must focus on key questions that will improve management effectiveness in reducing the frequency and likelihood of outbreaks, if not preventing them altogether,” said Dr. Uthicke.

“There is still a lot we do not know about these starfish and effective management is conditional upon improved knowledge of their biology, especially during the very early life stages, when the starfish are extremely small and very cryptic.”

“Biology, Ecology and Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish” is published in the open access journal Diversity.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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