Crown of Thorns
Crown of Thorns starfish (Acanthaster sp.). Likely Acanthaster planci, but the literature suggests a possibility of a multi-species complex in the Indo-Pacific. Off of the Big Island of Hawai’i. These guys are known for population blooms, and are efficient predators of corals. Often considered a nuisance species and detrimental to the reef, but this concept may be incorrect, especially for Hawaii. Perhaps the developers of autonomous Crown of Thorn killer robots in Australia, should reevaluate the need for their product. It may be that they would be better used killing invasive lionfish in the Atlantic.
I was hoping simply to post this image with some context. It turns out I stumbled into an ecological issue that is unresolved scientifically.
It is common for species baselines, and understanding of their ecological significance, to be lacking in the marine realm. Also common is for management to proceed despite this, and historically the consequences have been bad. I am not informed enough about this particular issue to offer any kind of conclusive professional opinion, but I have a guess.
The moral of the story is …. Echinoderms are wonderful! Also killer robots with syringes….
This image is from the Scientific American article linked above: “A Starfish-Killing, Artificially Intelligent Robot Is Set to Patrol the Great Barrier Reef: Crown of thorns starfish are destroying the reef. Bots that wield poison could dampen the invasion” By John R. Platt January 1, 2016