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Feeding preferences of the Cushion Star Culcita novaeguineae in the presence of the Crown of Thorns Starfish Acanthaster planci

  • Author(s): Bell, Jennifer
  • et al.
Abstract

Crown of thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci Linné 1758) are notorious coral reef devastators; they decimate coral populations, thus changing the coral reef habitat and killing many organisms that depend on the coral. Culcita novaeguineae (Muller and Troschel 1842), or cushion stars, are corallivores and generalists that live in Pacific reefs. Because C. novaeguineae and A. planci have similar food preferences, the presence of crown of thorns may change cushion stars’ eating habits. This study explored cushion star ecology and their laboratory feeding preferences in the presence and absence of crown of thorns. Laboratory experiments were conducted with three coral food choices (Porites sp., Acropora sp., and Monopora sp.) and algae covered rock. Cushion stars only ate Acropora sp. and Monopora sp. in laboratory experiments. They found among all three of those coral genera in the field and were rarely found near Pocillopora sp. Crown of thorns presence had no significant impact on the food choice in the lab or substrate choice of cushion stars in the field. General laboratory trends indicate cushion stars ate more frequently and preferred rock as substrate in the presence of crown of thorns.

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