Biogeographical variation in diurnal behaviour of Acanthaster planci versus Acanthaster cf. solaris

Burn, Deborah, Matthews, Samuel, Caballes, Ciemon F., Chandler, Josie F., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2020) Biogeographical variation in diurnal behaviour of Acanthaster planci versus Acanthaster cf. solaris. PLoS ONE, 15 (2). e0228796.

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Crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS; Acanthaster spp.) are among the most extensively studied coral reef taxa, largely owing to their devastating impacts on live coral cover during population outbreaks. Much of this research has however, been conducted in the western Pacific, although it is now apparent that there are several distinct species of Acanthaster spp. across the Indo-Pacific. The purpose of this study was to test for biogeographical variation in behaviour, comparing between Acanthaster planci at Lankanfushi Island in the Maldives and Acanthaster cf. solaris at Rib Reef on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The extent to which CoTS were exposed (cf. concealed within or beneath coral substrates) was substantially higher (63.14%) for A. planci at Lankanfushi Island, compared to 28.55% for A. cf. solaris at Rib Reef, regardless of time of day. More importantly, only 52% of individuals were exposed at night at Rib Reef compared to >97% at reefs around Lankanfushi Island. Biogeographic variation in the behaviour of Acanthaster spp. was independent of differences in the size structure of starfish and coral cover at specific study sites, but may be attributable to other environmental factors such as habitat complexity or prey availability. This is the first study to explicitly test for biogeographical differences in the biology and behaviour of Acanthaster spp., potentially linked to species-specific differences in the causes and explanations of population outbreaks. However, we did not find evidence at this stage of differences in behavior among regions, rather behavioural differences observed were most likely products of different environments.

Item ID: 63838
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1932-6203
Copyright Information: © 2020 Burn et al. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: National Environmental Science Programme (NESP), Australian Research Council (ARC), Gili Lankanfushi Resort
Projects and Grants: NESP Tropical Water Quality Hub (NESP 4.1.1), ARC CE0140100020
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 04 Aug 2020 04:12
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310301 Behavioural ecology @ 30%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 20%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970106 Expanding Knowledge in the Biological Sciences @ 100%
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