Click here to close Hello! We notice that you are using Internet Explorer, which is not supported by Echinobase and may cause the site to display incorrectly. We suggest using a current version of Chrome, FireFox, or Safari.
PLoS One 2020 Jul 20;157:e0236142. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0236142.
Show Gene links Show Anatomy links

Diet flexibility and growth of the early herbivorous juvenile crown-of-thorns sea star, implications for its boom-bust population dynamics.

Deaker DJ , Mos B , Lin HA , Lawson C , Budden C , Dworjanyn SA , Byrne M .

The ecology of the early herbivorous juvenile stage of the crown-of-thorns sea star (COTS, Acanthaster spp.) is poorly understood, yet the success of this life stage is key to generating population outbreaks that devastate coral reefs. Crustose coralline algae (CCA) has been considered to be the main diet of herbivorous juveniles. In this study, we show that COTS can avail of a range of algal food. Juveniles were reared on CCA, Amphiroa sp., and biofilm, and survived for 10 months on all three diets. The juveniles fed CCA and Amphiroa sp. reached 15-16.5 mm diameter at ~ 6 months and maintained this size for the rest the experiment (an additional ~4 months). Juveniles fed biofilm grew more slowly and to a smaller maximum size (~3 mm diameter). However, when juveniles were switched from biofilm to CCA they resumed growth to a new asymptotic size (~13.5 mm, 13-20 months). In diet choice experiments, juveniles did not show a preference between Amphiroa sp. and CCA, but generally avoided biofilm. Our results show that juvenile COTS grew equally well on CCA and Amphiroa sp. and can subsist on biofilm for months. Some juveniles, mostly from the biofilm diet treatment, decreased in size for a time and this was followed by recovery. Flexibility in diet, growth, and prolonged maintenance of asymptotic size indicates capacity for growth plasticity in herbivorous juvenile COTS. There is potential for juvenile COTS to persist for longer than anticipated and increase in number as they wait for the opportunity to avail of coral prey. These findings complicate our ability to predict recruitment to the corallivorous stage and population outbreaks following larval settlement and the ability to understand the age structure of COTS populations.

PubMed ID: 32687524
PMC ID: PMC7371202
Article link: PLoS One

Article Images: [+] show captions