DNA-based detection and patterns of larval settlement of the corallivorous crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster sp.)

Doll, Peter C., Messmer, Vanessa, Uthicke, Sven, Doyle, Jason R., Caballes, Ciemon F., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2021) DNA-based detection and patterns of larval settlement of the corallivorous crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster sp.). Biological Bulletin, 241 (3). pp. 271-285.

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Population irruptions of the western Pacific crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster sp.) are a perennial threat to coral reefs and may be initiated by fluctuations in reproductive or settlement success. However, the processes dictating their early life history, particularly larval settlement, remain poorly understood given limitations in sampling larvae and newly settled juveniles in the field. Here, we introduce an innovative method to measure crown-of-thorns sea star settlement, using artificial settlement collectors and droplet digital polymerase chain reaction based on crown-of-thorns sea starspecific mitochondrial DNA primers. This study demonstrated the utility of this method and explored temporal and spatial patterns of crown-of-thorns sea star settlement on the Great Barrier Reef from 2016 to 2020. Settlement varied considerably between sampling periods at Rib Reef and peaked between October 2016 and January 2017. Our results further suggest that crown-of thorns sea star larvae readily settle in shallow reef environments, with no preferential settlement detected between depths tested (4–12 m). Substantial variation between Great Barrier Reef regions was revealed in 2019– 2020, because collectors deployed on reefs in the central Great Barrier Reef were >10 times as likely to record newly settled crown-of-thorns sea stars as reefs in the northern Great Barrier Reef near Lizard Island. The trends reported here add to our understanding of this critical life-history stage; however, further method validation and larger-scale studies are needed to address pertinent information gaps, such as the stockrecruitment dynamics of this species. Most importantly, fluctuations in crown-of-thorns sea star settlement can now be detected using this sampling protocol, which demonstrates its utility in heralding new and renewed population irruptions of this destructive sea star.

Item ID: 73444
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-8697
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Copyright Information: © 2021 The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2022 23:52
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 80%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3105 Genetics > 310599 Genetics not elsewhere classified @ 20%
SEO Codes: 28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 80%
18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180503 Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in marine environments @ 20%
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