New COTSBot Robot Can Hunt And Kill Certain Starfish

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Image obtained with thanks from the Queensland University Of Technology.

The COTSBot, developed by the Queensland University of Technology can hunt down and kill certain starfish (The Crown Of Thorns Sea Star), which are believed to be decimating coral reefs at an unacceptable rate.

A rendition of the COTSBot. Image obtained with thanks from Queensland University Of Technology.
A rendition of the COTSBot. Image obtained with thanks from Queensland University Of Technology.

According to the university:

Since the 1960’s, land-based nutrient runoff has accelerated outbreaks of COTS which are destroying large areas of reef. With few natural predators, traditional control of COTS required manually injecting the starfish in excess of 10 times with a biological agent. In 2014, a new agent was released, which was developed by the James Cook University (JCU) requiring only one injection per starfish. This advancement provided the stimulus for us to revisit automated (robotic) COTS population control and monitoring.’

While it’s odd to intentionally decimate fish populations for purposes other than food, coral reefs are extremely important, and the Queensland University of Technology considers the Crown Of Thorns fish starfish to be the one of the greatest threats to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. According to the Smithsonian Ocean Portal, approximately a quarter of all ocean species rely on coral reefs for food and shelter.

I’m not certain as to whether or not this hunting effort is the right thing to do, as every species contributes to the ecosystem in some way. In low densities, Crown Of Thorns starfish primarily prey on fast-growing Acropoid coral, helping to promote reef diversity. It just goes to show the importance of balance. Too much of even a good thing can be harmful.

You’re more than welcome to share your thoughts on this matter in the comment section.