Starfish decimate reefs with their stomach juices.

January 20, 2008 at 9:49 pm (environment, frightening things)

Gross. But kind of cool…and destructive.

The predator starfish feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue.

Unfortunately, the irregularly large swarms of these “crown of thorns” starfish are leaving bare the coral reefs in the Indonesian Coral Triangle.

“It’s quite a stark sight. The crown of thorns choose to eat some species, like staghorn corals, the branching corals disappear and you are left with just a rubble pit,” Andrew Baird of the Australia Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University said by telephone.

Baird said the outbreak was caused by poor water quality and could be an early warning of widespread reef decline.

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