Scientists have identified new natural predators which could help fight outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) on the Great Barrier Reef.
As part of an Australian Government $9.8 million program funded through the Reef Trust Partnership, a recent study has found the red decorator crab is a significant predator for juvenile CoTS, with these crabs consuming 5 juvenile starfish per day on average.
Outbreaks of CoTs are one of the major sources of coral mortality across the Reef and studies like this provide novel insights into ways that natural predators can help us manage outbreaks.
The study tested more than 100 species of crabs, shrimps, worms, snails, and small fish. It is a part of the CoTS Control Innovation Program (CCIP), a collaborative research partnership between the Great Barrier Reef Foundation and leading institutions with COTS expertise. This includes the Australian Institute of Marine Science, CSIRO, James Cook University, and the University of Queensland.
The program is the first of its kind, with over 90 multi-disciplinary experts working together. The CCIP aims to deliver innovative solutions to drive progress in Australia’s ability to predict, detect and respond to CoTS outbreaks at scale across the Great Barrier Reef.
CoTS are a major threat for the Reef and managing their impact is a priority for Australian Government investments through the Reef Trust to support the Reef 2050 plan.