Controlling outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish using a single injection of common household vinegar


Outbreaks of the destructive coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci, present a considerable threat to coral reefs worldwide, and mitigating their impact has proven challenging. The most effective methods to control A. planci require injecting individual starfish with lethal chemicals. While some of these are highly effective, their administration often requires permits, training and access to specialised equipment. We aimed to identify a widely available and highly efficient alternative. We discovered that common household vinegar is lethal to A. planci individuals when injected at the base of one their arms. A single injection of 25 ml vinegar induced functional mortality in <24 h and 100 % mortality in <48 h. These results demonstrate that vinegar is an effective alternative to currently used chemicals. Vinegar is a viable alternative in the toolkit of methods that can control and eradicate local outbreaks of COTS on coral reefs.

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The authors are grateful to A. Hoggett and L. Vale for invaluable logistical support. C. Aguilar, A. Buck, R. Cornish, J. Eurich, R. Streit and L. Vitale provided field assistance. LBE was supported by Mahonia na Dari Research Centre, PNG, and by the Ian Potter Foundation 50th Anniversary COTS Control Grant from the Australian Museum’s Lizard Island Research Station (LIRS). JRP was supported by a LIRS Postdoctoral Fellowship, COTS control Grant from the Australian Research Council and Australian Institute of Marine Science.

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Correspondence to Lisa Boström-Einarsson.

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Communicated by Biology Editor Dr. Mark J. A. Vermeij

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Boström-Einarsson, L., Rivera-Posada, J. Controlling outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish using a single injection of common household vinegar. Coral Reefs 35, 223–228 (2016).

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  • COTS
  • Acanthaster planci
  • Control
  • Injection
  • Vinegar
  • Acetic acid