Crownofthorns

Acanthaster planci

ORDER Valvatida

FAMILY

Acanthasteridae

TAXONOMY

Acanthaster planci Linnaeus, 1758.

OTHER COMMON NAMES None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Size over 16 in (40 cm) in diameter with between 10 and 30 arms covered in dense thorn-like spines, which are mildly venomous; can inflict painful wounds that are slow to heal. Red and green coloration with reddish tips to spines. Juveniles are cryptic in color. Tube feet can function in gas exchange and feeding.

DISTRIBUTION

Pacific and Indian coral reefs, particularly associated with reefs in Hawaii, Australia, the Red Sea, India, and South Africa.

HABITAT

Adults found on open sand and feed among coral, whilst juveniles tend to hide among the coral, under rocks, and coral rubble.

BEHAVIOR

Sedentary dwellers of reef habitats. Large numbers may suddenly appear feeding on coral and then disappear.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Solitarily, generally feeds at night. A voracious predator of hard corals. Digests food by everting its stomach over coral, releasing a digestive enzyme and then absorbing liquefied tissue. Can survive without food for six months and feed on an estimated 3.1 mi2 (8 km2) of coral per year, leaving behind dead coral skeletons.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Sexual reproduction. Planktonic larvae undergo bipinnaria and brachiolaria development. Regenerates broken arms to form another individual.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Have caused widespread damage to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific Ocean, Red Sea, and Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Toxic spines capable of stinging humans, inflicting pain at site of sting and causing nausea. ♦

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