Settlement cue selectivity by larvae of the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish

Doll, Peter C., Uthicke, Sven, Caballes, Ciemon F., Diaz-Pulido, Guillermo, Abdul Wahab, Muhammad A., Jeong, So Young, Lang, Bethan J., and Pratchett, Morgan S. (2023) Settlement cue selectivity by larvae of the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish. Biology Letters, 19 (1). 20220399.

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Population irruptions of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) cause extensive degradation of coral reefs, threatening the structure and function of these important ecosystems. For population irruptions to initiate and spread, large numbers of planktonic larvae have to successfully transition into their benthic life-history stage (i.e. settlement), whereby larval behaviour and the presence of settlement cues may shape spatial patterns of recruitment and adult densities. Our results demonstrate that a wide range of coralline algae species induce COTS larvae to settle; however, the capacity to promote settlement success varied manyfold among algal species, ranging from greater than 90% in Melyvonnea cf. madagascariensis to less than 2% in Lithophyllum cf. kotschyanum and two Porolithon species at 24 h. Because many coralline algae species that promote high settlement success are prevalent in shallow reef habitats, our findings challenge the hypothesis that COTS larvae predominantly settle in deep water. Considering both larval behaviour and algal ecology, this study highlights the ecological significance of coralline algae communities in driving recruitment patterns of COTS. More specifically, the local abundance of highly inductive coralline algae (especially, Melyvonnea cf. madagascariensis) may explain some of the marked spatial heterogeneity of COTS populations and the incidence of population irruptions.

Item ID: 77506
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1744-957X
Keywords: coralline algae, Acanthaster, population outbreaks, larval settlement, metamorphosis, recruitment
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Copyright Information: © 2023 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.
Funders: National Taxonomy Research Grant Program (NTRGP), Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), Reef Restoration and Adaptation Program (RRAP), Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CE), Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE grant no. CE140100020, NTRGP grant no. RG19-35
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Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2023 02:33
FoR Codes: 31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310305 Marine and estuarine ecology (incl. marine ichthyology) @ 100%
SEO Codes: 18 ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT > 1805 Marine systems and management > 180501 Assessment and management of benthic marine ecosystems @ 20%
28 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 2801 Expanding knowledge > 280102 Expanding knowledge in the biological sciences @ 80%
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