Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Selective feeding and microalgal consumption rates by crown-of-thorns seastar (Acanthaster cf. solaris) larvae.

Abstract

Outbreaks of the crown-of-thorns seastar (CoTS) represent a major cause of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef. Outbreaks can be explained by enhanced larval survival supported by higher phytoplankton availability after flood events, yet little is known about CoTS larvae feeding behaviour, in particular their potential for selective feeding. Here, single- and mixed-species feeding experiment were conducted on CoTS larvae using five algae (Phaeodactylum tricornutum, Pavlova lutheri, Tisochrysis lutea, Dunaliella sp. and Chaetoceros sp.) and two algal concentrations (1000 and 2500 algae.mL-1). Cell counts using flow-cytometry at the beginning and end of each incubation experiment allowed us to calculate the filtration and ingestion rates of each species by CoTS larvae. In line with previous studies, CoTS larvae ingested more algae when the initial algal concentration was higher. We found evidence for the selective ingestion of some species (Chaetoceros sp., Dunaliella sp.) over others (P. lutheri, P. tricornutum). The preferred algal species had the highest energy content, suggesting that CoTS selectively ingested the most energetic algae. Ultimately, combining these results with spatio-temporal patterns in phytoplankton communities will help elucidate the role of larval feeding behaviour in determining the frequency and magnitude of CoTS outbreaks.