Located on the northeast coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is threatened by global warming, pollution of ocean waters and the purple Acanthaster, a starfish known as the "crown of thorns". This very poisonous echinoderm, with its imposing size is equipped with quills, which feeds almost exclusively on corals, wreaking havoc on coral reefs.
Researchers at AIMS (Australian Institute for Marine Science) have found that crown of thorns avoid areas where the giant triton lives. This mollusc with its spectacular shell (it can reach up to 50 cm) hunts these killer sea stars, which it is fond of, thanks to its developed sense of smell. He could be the future savior of the Great Barrier Reef, if a large number were unleashed on the coral reefs of the Australian coast. For this reason, the Australian government has announced funding for research on the breeding of these molluscs, the numbers of which have unfortunately dropped sharply in the oceans those past years. "If the research is successful, scientists will study the impact of giant tritons on the behavior of crown of thorns and test their potential as a management tool to limit the disappearance of corals," said Warren Entsch. , Member of the Australian Parliament.
The breeding has already begun and already more than 100,000 larvae have been raised. But AIMS scientists know very little about their life cycle. "We really do not know anything about them, what they eat, whether they are nocturnal or not, and this is the first real attempt to raise them," said Cherie Motti, the research manager. It only remains to be hoped that the larvae will grow up and reach adulthood, so that they can be released on the corals and play their role of natural predator, when starfish invade the coral reefs.