Views & Reviews The bigger picture

Crown of thorns

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.39384.530833.59 (Published 01 November 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:940
  1. Mary E Black, public health physician, Belgrade, Serbia
  1. drmaryblack{at}gmail.com

    The crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci), a voracious predator of coral, is present normally in small numbers on reefs. Extensive and devastating epidemics can occur on coral reefs when the population of these sinister, grey spiny creatures episodically explodes; they munch through every bit of coral in sight, secreting chemicals as they do so that attract more starfish. The result is total battlefield devastation. There are two types of trigger: pesticides and overfishing kill off the tritons, sea snails, and reef fish that prey on these starfish; and agricultural run-off and warming of the …

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