Dreadful Discovery About Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish Has Silver Lining For Great Barrier Reef

Jonathan Allen has good news and bad news for Australians regarding the crown-of-thorns sea star.

The bad news is that the fecund and voracious destroyer of Indo-Pacific coral reefs has a previously unknown method of reproduction.

The good news is that the Australians might be able to limit the outbreaks of these coral-munching echinoderms by using this new knowledge.

Allen is an associate professor in William & Mary’s Department of Biology. He is a member of a team that discovered that the crown-of-thorns seastar (COTS) can reproduce by larval cloning. Their discovery is describedin “Larval cloning in the crown-of-thorns sea star, a keystone coral predator,” published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

Emily Richardson, a 2018 M.S. graduate in biology, is a co-author; her work was supported in part by a grant from William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies. She is now in a Ph.D. program at Monash University in Australia. Other authors are Dione Deaker and Maria Byrne of the University of Sydney and Antonio Agüera of the University of Brussels. The project was funded by was funded by an Ian Potter Foundation Grant from the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station.

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