The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is the second largest sea star in the world and can reach over half a meter in diameter. Their bodies are covered with sharp spines, approximately 5 cm long, which they use as a defense mechanism against any threat, including humans. Crown-of-thorns have between thirteen and sixteen arms that extend out radially from a central body. They vary in color, with their spines generally having a different color from the rest of their body. Although they are a species of starfish, they differ from all other starfish in their feeding behavior. Unlike any other starfish, crown-of-thorns prey directly on live coral, often killing them in the process. Through this destructive feeding, crown-of- thorns disrupt the entire reef ecosystem. At various times it has been blamed for the killing of large portions of reefs in parts of the Pacific ocean, including a large portion of the great barrier reef of Australia during the 1960’s. It is so despised that many scuba clubs organize “starfish hunts” in which these starfish are rounded up in an effort to save reefs from destruction. These starfish should be handled carefully, since the long, sharp spines are mildly venomous and can inflict painful wounds.
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The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) is the second largest sea star in the world and can reach over half a meter in diameter. Their bodies are covered with sharp spines, approximately 5 cm long, which they use as a defense mechanism against any threat, including humans. Crown-of-thorns have between thirteen and sixteen arms that extend out radially from a central body. They vary in color, with their spines generally having a different color from the rest of their body. Although they are a species of starfish, they differ from all other starfish in their feeding behavior. Unlike any other starfish, crown-of-thorns prey directly on live coral, often killing them in the process. Through this destructive feeding, crown-of- thorns disrupt the entire reef ecosystem. At various times it has been blamed for the killing of large portions of reefs in parts of the Pacific ocean, including a large portion of the great barrier reef of Australia during the 1960’s. It is so despised that many scuba clubs organize “starfish hunts” in which these starfish are rounded up in an effort to save reefs from destruction. These starfish should be handled carefully, since the long, sharp spines are mildly venomous and can inflict painful wounds.

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