February 4th, 2013
That’s the inescapable conclusion when you look at the 50 years of research on the crown-of-thorns starfish problem that has led to no clear answers. This includes my own work in the 1980’s.
HAVING THEIR WAY WITH NATURE AND SCIENCE. The starfish must find it hilarious that after 50 years of research nobody still knows how or why they come and go so dramatically.
ONE BIG MYSTERY, ONE BIG MESS
Sorry. I suppose I should put it a little more delicately. But seriously. FIFTY years of research, tens of millions of dollars spent, and we can’t tell you why an extremely common starfish undergoes population explosions? It is a monument to the impotence of the entire field of marine biology. Terrestrial ecologists have no trouble telling you what causes locust or bamboo cycles. But crown-of-thorns starfish? It was a mess when I studied it in the mid-80’s, it’s still a mess.
Not that there aren’t lots of great marine biologists in this world. I’ve known heaps of them. But let’s be honest, this is one of the biggest questions in the entire field of marine biology, and it’s not a particularly complex question (“Why the population explosions?”). And yet … here’s an article just this week saying pretty much nobody knows nuttin’.
COULDA FOOLED ME
The article does claim the folks on the Great Barrier Reef have got their story worked out (that the population explosions are caused by nutrient runoff from the land feeding the larvae — if only larval ecology were that simple). I don’t have the time and energy to try and still promote the 4 years of work I did on the problem in the mid-1980’s studying the larvae of the starfish and publishing several peer-reviewed papers. But I will say this — their current thinking (mentioned in this article) is simply wrong. And every so often a marine biologist will track me down with this opinion that they are all wrong and I will agree. But it’s a rats nest, with funding motivation at the core of at least some of the opinions.
Again, sorry, too busy to wade into it. Life is too short. I have movies to make. But this is pathetic that 50 years has produced so little knowledge.