From Wildlife Extra:
Giant snail the solution to Barrier Reef’s Crown-of-thorns problem?
Good news for Australia in the battle to save delicate coral organisms on the Great Barrier Reef from annihilation by the rapidly multiplying and invasive Crown-of-thorns Starfish.
Scientists have discovered that the scent of the Triton Sea Snail is repellent to the giant starfish.
The Crown-of-thorns has been responsible for 40 per cent of coral cover loss on the Great Barrier Reef in the past 30 years.
University of the Sunshine Coast senior lecturer Scott Cummins says they have learned that the Triton Snail is one of the starfish’s natural predators.
“We put [the snail] next to the Crown-of-thorns Starfish and they reacted quite obviously,” he says.
“They started to run away, which is quite an important finding because it tells us they do have very poor eyesight, so they are sensing or smelling their main predator.”
At the moment, in an effort to save the reefs, divers search for the starfish and administer a lethal injection which was developed by James Cook University, but this is very costly an labour intensive. This new discovery may provide the long-term answer to the problem.
“The snail is releasing a complex mixture of molecules,” explains Cummins. “We want to narrow it down to exactly what the molecule is then hopefully we can take that and put it into some slow release system on the reef.”
Australian Institute of Marine Science researcher Dr Mike Hall says the decline of the giant Triton Snail, prized for its beautiful shell, might have partially contributed to the population explosion in Crown-of-thorns Starfish that has had such a devastating effect.
The snail has been protected in Australia since the 1960s but it is still extremely rare on the Great Barrier Reef.
One should hope that triton snails will also help against another threat to the Great Barrier Reef: the disastrous environmental policies of Tony Abbott’s government in Australia.
Seven ways the Australian government in totally screwing up the environment: here.