Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Creature Feature: Crown-of-Thorns Starfish.
OK, what the hell is that? Whatever it is, it fell off of Lady Gaga's head, didn't it?
That is a crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci). Though treated as a single species, there are many varieties that are not as psychedelic as the one above; these might be considered subspecies by location (Red Sea, Pacific or Indian Ocean). They are all many-armed, carnivorous echinoderms with nasty spines. Those spines are venomous, not just intimidating.
These starfish, unlike many other weird-looking animals, actually are a threat. Their population has been blossoming recently, most noticeably in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. A single crown-of-thorns can eat up to 6 square meters of reef per year. Whenever they feed, they call their friends to come join them at the buffet. These starfish mean business.
Om nom nom.
If their population is left unchecked -yes, this nasty sea star does have some predators, especially as little larvae - the whole reef could be gone before we know it. Then it's only a matter of time before they move onto land...
On second thought, the reef disappearing is bad enough.
(Lady Gaga, please make a hat out of this. Do us all a favor and kill the overpopulated, reef-eating starfish. Even Greenpeace won't bitch.)