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RAISING SHELL Snails on trail to save Great Barrier Reef
A GIANT sea snail is being bred up to try to save our world famous Great Barrier Reef from the devastating crownof-thorns starfish.
The Federal Government has launched world-first research to breed thousands of rare giant triton sea snails, which devour (below) the star starfish – one of the key causes of coral loss on the natural wonder.
A RARE giant sea snail is being touted as the life-saving predator that will rescue one of the wonders of the natural world, the Great Barrier Reef.
World-first research into the crown-of-thorns starfish outbreak threatening the Reef will today receive federal funding, in the hope of protecting one of Australia’s biggest tourist attractions.
The crown-of-thorns is one of the leading causes of coral loss on the Reef, with up to 150,000 of the pests able to spread across just one square kilometre during an outbreak.
New research has found that the rare sea snail, hunted almost to extinction, could be the answer to the starfish outbreak. The giant triton snail, wh ich grows to almost half a metre, eats the starfish but its presence also causes them to flee. The Federal Government will today invest $568,000 for world-first research and a two-year trial into the rare snails. More than 100,000 snail larvae have already hatched. Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg said if successful, triton snails could be used to disperse the starfish – which appear to “flee” from the predator – and prevent them from breeding.
“This new project builds on the success of Australian Institute of Marine Science research that found the crown-of-thorns starfish avoids areas where triton sea snails are present,” he said.
AIMS research manager Dr David Souter said the snails were so rare, almost nothing was known about them, including their repro- ductive biology or life cycle.
“We’re looking at how long they take to grow to maturity and the potential for a breeding program,” he said.
Dr Souter said any eventual release of more snails on the Great Barrier Reef would be under tightly controlled circumstances to avoid a canetoad-type situation, in which the solution becomes worse than the original problem.
A recent report found the Reef is worth $56 billion to the economy and supports 64,000 fulltime jobs.
PRICKLY CUSTOMER: A giant triton sea snail devours a crown-of-thorns starfish.
Giant triton sea snails grow to about half a metre long
They are so rare almost nothing is known about their life cycle
Named after the Greek god Triton, son of the sea god Poseidon
They eat and repel crown-of-thorns starfish
The Great Barrier Reef is worth $56 billion to Australia’s economy and supports 64,000 fulltime jobs