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Outbreak of coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns creates continuous cloud of larvae over 320 km of the Great Barrier Reef
Uthicke, S.; Doyle, J.; Duggan, S.; Yasuda, N.; McKinnon, A.D. (2015). Outbreak of coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns creates continuous cloud of larvae over 320 km of the Great Barrier Reef. NPG Scientific Reports 5(16885): 7 pp. hdl.handle.net/10.1038/srep16885
In: Scientific Reports (Nature Publishing Group). Nature Publishing Group: London. ISSN 2045-2322, more
Peer reviewed article  

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Keyword
    Marine

Authors  Top 
  • Uthicke, S.
  • Doyle, J.
  • Duggan, S.
  • Yasuda, N.
  • McKinnon, A.D.

Abstract
    Coral reefs are in decline worldwide due to a combination of local and global causes. Over 40% of the recent coral loss on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR) has been attributed to outbreaks of the coral-eating Crown-of-Thorns Seastar (CoTS). Testing of the hypotheses explaining these outbreaks is hampered by an inability to investigate the spatio-temporal distribution of larvae because they resemble other planktotrophic echinoderm larvae. We developed a genetic marker and tested it on 48 plankton samples collected during the 2014 spawning season in the northern GBR, and verified the method by PCR amplification of single larva. Surprisingly, most samples collected contained CoTS larvae. Larvae were detected 100?km south of current outbreaks of adult seastars, highlighting the potential for rapid expansion of the outbreak. A minimum estimate suggested that larvae numbers in the outbreak area (>1010) are about 4 orders of magnitude higher than adults (~106) in the same area, implying that attempts to halt outbreaks by removing adults may be futile.

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