The crown of thorns starfish is often considered the most
unusual member of the seastars. They are currently considered a single species
Acanthaster planci but recent genetic studies suggest that it may be 4 different species.
Their thorns give protection against predators and cause dried specimens such as this one to look almost plantlike. Most specimens
offered for sell are a bit larger than
this specimen and are just a little too big for practical stereoscopic scanning.
Crown of thorns starfish prey on coral polyps and although they have filled an ecological role in preventing fast growing corals
from crowding out slower growing forms they have in recent years been causing permanent damage to reefs already stressed by other
Population explosions have led to them reaching plague proportions. These outbreaks are thought to at least partially be due to
manmade factors, so human intervention has been deemed apropriate.