By Nadia Warren
The Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) claims that a giant starfish-eating sea snail know as the Pacific Triton sea snail can save Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef. A rapid increase in the population of Crown of Thorns starfish, whose main snack is coral, has resulted in the death of thriving coral reefs in Australia.
According to scientists, one starfish consumes roughly ten square meters of coral on a yearly basis. Along with other environmental impacts such as global warming, pollution and rising sea temperatures, the rapid population growth of these starfish is putting an even greater stress on the reefs. AIMS has discovered that the Pacific Triton sea snail is a natural predator for the Crown of Thorns starfish, and that the starfish swim away in a panicked manner when in the presence of the predator.
The sea snail has gained its rare status through overfishing, which has resulted in little known information about the sea snail. An attempt to reduce and control the Crown of Thorns population has included injecting an acidic compound into the starfish, which in turn kills them. The acidic compound had proven successful, but it has come to light that the compound could potentially have a negative effect on the environment and result in other negative effects on the reefs. Scientists have received a government grant to fund the research of the mannerisms of the sea snail in order to implement a successful breeding program to increase the population of the sea snail and decrease the population of the starfish. At the moment, there are only 10 sea snails in captivity, but the snails have laid over 15,000 eggs which will be released into the Great Barrier Reef once they have reached their full half-meter size.