Australian Institute of Marine Science, P.M.B. No. 3, Townsville, M.C. 4810, Queensland, Australia
The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planet Linnaeus 1758) has become one of the most well-known animals in coral reef ecosystems. This notoriety has developed not because of its beauty or its commercial value but because it forms large aggregations or outbreaks, which can lead to the destruction of extensive areas of coral. Over the last 20 years numerous observations and opinions have been recorded about this starfish. These have ranged from scientific papers and reviews on various aspects of the biology and ecology of this animal to discussions of its effects on the tourist industry. Most debate on this topic has addressed two main questions: first, what causes outbreaks and secondly, are they influenced by man’s activities?