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Predictable patterns for coral-reef pest

Nature volume 511, page 510 (31 July 2014) | Download Citation


Modelling how ocean currents spread the larvae of coral-eating starfish around Australia's Great Barrier Reef can help to identify areas that are prone to damaging epidemics of the pest.

Image: Jurgen Freund/

A team led by Karlo Hock of the University of Queensland in St Lucia, Australia, used a computer model to study the distribution of larvae of the voracious crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci; pictured) in the Great Barrier Reef. Areas of the reef that are densely connected to each other through ocean currents were more likely to experience an outbreak, and to amplify it into a wider problem. The authors' model also accurately identified the specific region where epidemics most often originate.

The team suggests that careful study of reef connectivity could help to control future starfish outbreaks.

J. Appl. Ecol. (2014)

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