All posts by Julie Zill

Sea creature spotlight: the Pacific triton (Charonia tritonis), a voracious Crown-of-thorns predator

Check out this fascinating video that was recently released by the Australian Institute of Marine Science:

The Pacific triton (Charonia tritonis) is a large reef-dwelling mollusk that preys on echinoderms. It is one of the few natural predators of the Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) – a corallivorous sea star that can devastate coral reefs when their population levels periodically explode. This video is part of ongoing research at AIMS that has shown that merely the scent of the triton is enough to cause Crown-of-thorns to flee. Researchers hope to utilize tritons to disperse spawning aggregations of Crown-of-thorns and disrupt their reproductive cycle in order to control outbreaks.

Throughout much of their range, Pacific tritons have been overharvested for their shell and for meat. Such is the case in Hawaii, where it’s more common to see triton shells for sale in gift shops than it is to encounter them alive in the wild. It’s prohibited to collect Pacific tritons (and Cassis cornuta; another molluscan Crown-of-thorns predator) in only a few areas of Hawaii (e.g. the Fisheries Replenishment Areas of the Kona Coast). Hopefully Hawaii will take steps to expand protection for these mollusks, as their potential importance in mitigating Crown-of-thorns outbreaks becomes better understood.

Full story here: