Incidence and severity of injuries among juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish on Australia's Great Barrier Reef

Wilmes, Jennifer C., Hoey, Andrew S., Messmer, Vanessa, and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2019) Incidence and severity of injuries among juvenile crown-of-thorns starfish on Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Coral Reefs. (In Press)

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Abstract

Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acan- thaster spp.) represent a major threat to coral reef ecosystems throughout the Indo-Pacific, and there is sig- nificant interest in whether no-take marine reserves could moderate the frequency or severity of outbreaks. Herein, we investigate whether the incidence and severity of sub- lethal injuries among juvenile Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster cf. solaris, max diameter = 45 mm) differs between areas that are open versus closed to fishing, between microhabitats (i.e. dead coral substratum versus live coral) and with body size. The majority (180 out of 200) of juvenile starfish had conspicuous injuries, pre- sumably caused by predation. The incidence of injuries in juvenile starfish was negatively related to body size, but links between body size and severity of injuries were only evident in individuals collected from dead coral micro- habitats. Small (3 mm radius) starfish from dead coral microhabitats had injuries to 68.06% of arms, compared to 12.00% of arms in larger (12 mm radius) starfish from the same microhabitat. Juvenile starfish associated with dead coral habitats had a higher incidence (95 vs. 87% respec- tively) and severity (i.e. the percentage of injured arms; 21 vs. 6%) of injuries, compared to those associated with live corals. Interestingly, there was no difference in the inci- dence or severity of injuries between areas that are open versus closed to fishing. Our results show that small juvenile A. cf. solaris are extremely vulnerable to sublethal, if not lethal, predation, and predation risk declines as they grow and change their microhabitat. Pre- dation during and immediately following settlement is, therefore, likely to have a major influence on population dynamics and ontogenetic changes in microhabitat use for A. cf. solaris.

Item ID: 60339
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1432-0975
Keywords: Acanthaster, 0+ starfish, Sublethal injuries, Predation, Population dynamics
Funders: Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Australian Musueum (AM), National Environment Research Program (NERP)
Projects and Grants: AM Lizard Island Research Station
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2019 01:48
FoR Codes: 06 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 0602 Ecology > 060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960808 Marine Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 100%
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