Ports are hotspots for exotic sea star orgies

June 26, 2012
Ports are hotspots for exotic sea star orgies

Marine biologists have found that port environments are enabling invasive sea stars to breed at a rapid rate.

In a new research article, researchers found that these environments can facilitate the invasion of a significant marine pest by driving overwhelming reproductive success.

Dr. Scott Ling, from the UTAS Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS), is the lead author of the paper published in .

"The sea star must release eggs in close proximity to sperm sources because chances of fertilization decline drastically with increasing distance between spawning ," he said.

"Beneath wharves a super abundant supply of food leads to a veritable orgy of highly aggregated and fecund sea stars that achieve great fertilisation success".

Dr. Ling said the research found that wharf populations, while representing less than 10 per cent of the total sea star population in an estuary and concentrated in less than 0.1 per cent of the estuary area, can contribute up to a massive 90 per cent of all larval production in an estuary.

"A big part of the problem is that in human-dominated environments, very few native species compete with the invasive sea star," he said.

Dr. Ling said that while long-term protection of key sources of larval production is a common goal in marine reserve design and , the same ecological concept, but in reverse - whereby larval production is minimised at key sources - is a concept yet to be broadly applied to the management of established marine pests.

"Restoring values to achieve a more natural in makes sense on many levels - here we have an example of what might be achievable to reduce the dominance of an exotic pest.

"While transfer of marine pests has increased globally with international shipping, the success of species once they arrive in new places can largely be determined by the ecological dynamics of the system they find themselves in," Dr. Ling said.

"There are consequences when we modify the marine environment, and exotic species can and will capitalize on opportunities to flourish."

Explore further: Carbon dioxide poses risk to marine life survival

More information: onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10 … 64.2012.02133.x/full

Related Stories

Carbon dioxide poses risk to marine life survival

August 6, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Climate change and the subsequent acidification of the world's oceans will significantly reduce the successful fertilisation of certain marine species by the year 2100, an international team of biological ...

Pollution forms an invisible barrier for marine life

March 10, 2011

Over 50 percent of the population in the United States and over 60 percent in the world live in coastal areas. Rapidly growing human populations near the ocean have massively altered coastal water ecosystems.

Mediterranean Sea invaded by alien species

May 23, 2011

More than 900 new alien species have been encountered in the coastal environments of the eastern Mediterranean Sea in recent decades, including the poisonous pufferfish. The invasion of alien species has had the consequence ...

Sea urchins cannot control invasive seaweeds

July 13, 2011

Exotic marine species, including giant seaweeds, are spreading fast, with harmful effects on native species, and are increasingly affecting the biodiversity of the Mediterranean seabed. Some native species, such as sea urchins ...

Recommended for you

New discovery challenges long-held evolutionary theory

October 19, 2017

Monash scientists involved in one of the world's longest evolution experiments have debunked an established theory with a study that provides a 'high-resolution' view of the molecular details of adaptation.

Gene editing in the brain gets a major upgrade

October 19, 2017

Genome editing technologies have revolutionized biomedical science, providing a fast and easy way to modify genes. However, the technique allowing scientists to carryout the most precise edits, doesn't work in cells that ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.