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Dryad

Data for: Settlement cue selectivity by larvae of the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish

Cite this dataset

Doll, Peter et al. (2023). Data for: Settlement cue selectivity by larvae of the destructive crown-of-thorns starfish [Dataset]. Dryad. https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.gqnk98srv

Abstract

Population irruptions of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) cause extensive degradation of coral reefs, threatening the structure and function of these important ecosystems. For population irruptions to initiate and spread, large numbers of planktonic larvae have to successfully transition into their benthic life-history stage (i.e. settlement), whereby larval behaviour and the presence of settlement cues may shape spatial patterns of recruitment and adult densities. Our results demonstrate that a wide range of coralline algae species induce COTS larvae to settle; however, the capacity to promote settlement success varied manyfold among algal species, ranging from >90% in Melyvonnea cf. madagascariensis to <2% in Lithophyllum cf. kotschyanum and two Porolithon species at 24 hours. Because many coralline algae species that promote high settlement success are prevalent in shallow reef habitats, our findings challenge the hypothesis that COTS larvae predominantly settle in deep water. Considering both larval behaviour and algal ecology, this study highlights the ecological significance of coralline algae communities in driving settlement patterns of COTS. More specifically, the local abundance of highly inductive coralline algae (especially, Melyvonnea cf. madagascariensis) may explain marked spatial variability in the abundance of COTS and the incidence of population irruptions.

Funding

Australian Biological Resources Study, Award: RG19-35

Australian Institute of Marine Science