Means to fight crown of thorns starfish may be at hand

A research team of Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) has found that it’s a possibility that acanthasters, usually known as crown of thorns starfish generate specific protein to attract each other during their breeding season. The finding was reported in Nature, an English-language scientific web magazine.

If substance using the protein to attract crown of thorns starfish to one place were discovered, it would be possible to exterminate them effectively.

The research team was first in the world to decode the whole genome of the crown of thorns starfish and discover the specific protein. The collaborative research team included Professor Noriyuki Sato from OIST Marine Genomix Unit, and Kenneth Bachmann, a doctoral student at the Australian Institute of Marine Science and The University of Queensland.

They extracted each DNA from one crown of thorns starfish from Okinawa and one from the Great Barrier Reef to decode the genome. They discovered that the crown of thorns starfish generates specific protein to attract other crown of thorns starfish. They concluded it was highly possible that the protein was useful only for the crown of thorns starfish to signal others of the same species to come together.

The crown of thorns starfish is blamed on much of the destruction of corals, and fishermen and nonprofit organizations remove them one by one in the waters around Okinawa. According to Professor Sato, “In Australia, they have already started making this specific protein in large amounts. If we can round the crown of thorns starfish up, it would be possible to exterminate them effectively.”