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Chemical may deter starfish from devouring endangered coral reefs

Click here for abstract 1 and here for abstract 2:

HONOLULU, Dec. 17 - Researchers have discovered a chemical in sea urchins that might be used to lure starfish away from coral reefs, an endangered ecosystem they are devouring at an alarming rate. The finding was presented here today during the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin Societies.

The weeklong scientific meeting, held once every five years, is hosted by the American Chemical Society, in conjunction with its counterparts in Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.

The poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish, which feasts on coral and whose population is believed to be expanding, is a major source of destruction of valued habitats in the tropical zones of the Indian and Pacific oceans, including Hawaii. The problem is acute in Japan, where extensive, costly efforts to control the creature have met with little success.

Home to a variety of organisms that are a potential source of life-saving medicines, coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the sea. These rich ecosystems are rapidly disappearing. An estimated 27 percent of the world's coral reefs have already been destroyed, according to the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, an organization established to assess and improve reef conditions. Unless better management is established, 40 percent of the world's reefs will be lost by 2010, the network predicts. Starfish are expected to be a significant factor in this decline.

Researchers at Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan, recently discovered that sea urchins contain a chemical that appears to attract starfish. After laboratory analysis, t
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Contact: Charmayne Marsh
y_marsh@acs.org
808-944-6381
American Chemical Society
16-Dec-2000


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