Fwd: Chemical may deter starfish from devouring endangered coral reefs

Ellsworth LeDrew ells at watleo.uwaterloo.ca
Mon Dec 18 13:14:28 EST 2000

>Thought you might be interested in the following...
>Contact: Charmayne Marsh
>y_marsh at acs.org
>At the Ilikai Hotel, Honolulu (Dec. 13-19)
>Beverly Hassell
>American Chemical Society
>Chemical may deter starfish from devouring endangered coral reefs
>Click here for abstract 1 and here for abstract 2:
>HONOLULU, Dec. 17 - Researchers have discovered a chemical in sea urchins
>that might be used to lure starfish away from coral reefs, an endangered
>ecosystem they are devouring at an alarming rate. The finding was presented
>here today during the 2000 International Chemical Congress of Pacific Basin
>The weeklong scientific meeting, held once every five years, is hosted by
>the American Chemical Society, in conjunction with its counterparts in
>Australia, Canada, Japan and New Zealand.
>The poisonous crown-of-thorns starfish, which feasts on coral and whose
>population is believed to be expanding, is a major source of destruction of
>valued habitats in the tropical zones of the Indian and Pacific oceans,
>including Hawaii. The problem is acute in Japan, where extensive, costly
>efforts to control the creature have met with little success.
>Home to a variety of organisms that are a potential source of life-saving
>medicines, coral reefs have been called the rainforests of the sea. These
>rich ecosystems are rapidly disappearing. An estimated 27 percent of the
>world's coral reefs have already been destroyed, according to the Global
>Coral Reef Monitoring Network, an organization established to assess and
>improve reef conditions. Unless better management is established, 40
>percent of the world's reefs will be lost by 2010, the network predicts.
>Starfish are expected to be a significant factor in this decline.
>Researchers at Nagoya University in Nagoya, Japan, recently discovered that
>sea urchins contain a chemical that appears to attract starfish. After
>laboratory analysis, they isolated the active chemicals from the urchin and
>found they are two unsaturated fatty acids: arachidonic acid and
>a-linolenic acid.
>While only a small number of starfish were captured during an initial trial
>of the attractant, the results are promising because they represent proof
>of principle, says Daisuke Uemura, Ph.D., the study's lead researcher and a
>chemistry professor at the university.
>"Although we can't save all of the coral reefs in the world from
>destruction, our research is useful for saving some of them," says Uemura.
>Most attempts to control the starfish population have been unsuccessful.
>Poisoning harms other creatures that share their habitat. Cutting them up
>is compromised by the ability of starfish to regenerate whole organisms
>from severed parts. Other methods include catching the creatures with a
>harpoon and isolating the adults from coral with underwater fences. Methods
>under consideration include the introduction of diseases and predators that
>are specific to the starfish.
>No one is certain why outbreaks of starfish appear to have increased in
>recent years. One theory suggests that their populations bloom several
>years after a large typhoon with high rainfall, which produces abundant
>sediments. These sediments are thought to contain nutrients that contribute
>to plankton blooms, which serve as food for young starfish. Other theories
>point to the destruction of their major predators and the effects of
>Besides starfish, many other forces play a major role in the destruction of
>the reefs. These include overfishing, pollution, typhoons and global
>warming. In Hawaii, where most of the coral reefs in the United States are
>found, coral is being decimated by tourists, particularly snorkelers.
>More than 8,000 research papers will be presented during this year's
>International Chemical Congress, which is sponsored jointly by the American
>Chemical Society, the Chemical Society of Japan, the Canadian Society of
>Chemistry, the Royal Australian Chemical Institute and the New Zealand
>Institute of Chemistry.
>The paper on this research, ORGN 850, will be presented at 8:40 a.m.,
>Sunday, Dec. 17, at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Coral Ballroom I,
>Mid-Pacific Conference Center, during the symposium, "Natural Products of
>Chemistry: Biological Activity and Synthesis." In addition, a poster on
>this research, ORGN 1277, will be presented at 9:00 a.m., Monday, Dec. 18,
>at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, Coral Ballroom III, Mid-Pacific Conference
>Center, during the same symposium.
>Daisuke Uemura is a professor in the department of chemistry at Nagoya
>University in Nagoya, Japan.
>Back to EurekAlert!

Dr. Ellsworth F. LeDrew
Professor of Geography
University of Waterloo
On Sabbatical Leave from September 1, 2000
to August 31, 2001
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1 Canada
ells at watleo.uwaterloo.ca
See my web page for info on research
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