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crown-of-thorns sea star

Slow motion destruction

Gliding on hundreds of tiny suction-cup feet, A Crown-of-thorns sea star roams the reef, consuming
immobile corals and leaving bare coral skeleton behind. Common in the Pacific and Indian Oceans and Red Sea, their numbers can soar during outbreaks that leave large areas of reef empty of living coral. The Crown-of-thorns’ bright colors warn potential predators of their venomous spines, which can cause extremely painful wounds. As part of a collaborative partnership with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia, WHOI researchers are studying aspects of Red Sea coral reef ecosystems. (Photo by Konrad Hughen, Woods Hole Oceanongraphic Institution)


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