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Communication of Coral Eating Starfish can save Coral Reefs: Scientists

This crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) species is one of the few animals that can eat corals

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Coral reefs can be prevented by understanding communication of starfish. VOA
  • The communication patterns of a species of starfish that feeds on coral
  • The crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) species is one of the few animals that can eat corals
  • The presence of this species, referred to by the locals as onihitode or demon starfish in Japan 

Tokyo, June 5, 2017: Japanese and Australian scientists have discovered the communication patterns of a species of starfish that feeds on coral.

This discovery, the scientists hope, will help in the preservation of the coral reefs as a single specimen of the crown-of-thorns starfish consumes up to 10 sq. metres of coral meat per year and is responsible for between 37 per cent to 99 per cent of the decrease in live coral cover, Efe news reported.

This crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster planci) species is one of the few animals that can eat corals, Ken Baughman, one of the authors of the study by the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology, said on Monday.

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The presence of this species, referred to by the locals as onihitode or demon starfish, in the waters off the coast of the Japanese village of Onna in the Okinawa island was first reported in 1957.

A native of the Indo-Pacific region, this species is experiencing a boom in population that has resulted in tens of thousands to millions of starfish in population densities of 150,000 per sq.km.

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Normally, reefs only have a few, says Baughman, adding But in recent decades the population outbreaks have tripled.

Baughman’s team and Australian researchers analysed the starfish’s genome, which for the first time has been completely sequenced.

It is kind of like an instruction manual for how to build a starfish. We can better understand crown-of-thorns starfish biology and consequently its behaviour, Baughman explained. (IANS)

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Japan to Drop Explosive to Make Crater on Asteroid to Collect Samples from Inside

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments

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FILE - In this Feb. 22, 2019, file photo, this image released by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) shows the shadow, center above, of the Hayabusa2 spacecraft after its successful touchdown on the asteroid Ryugu. VOA

Japan’s space agency said Monday that its Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — to drop an explosive to make a crater and collect underground samples to get possible clues to the origin of the solar system.

Hayabusa2 made history on Feb. 22 when it successfully touched down on the boulder-rich asteroid, where it also collected some surface fragments.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency said Hayabusa2 is to drop a copper impactor the size of a baseball and weighing 2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) on the asteroid on April 5 to collect samples from deeper underground where they had not been exposed to the sun or space rays.

The new mission will require an immediate evacuation of the spacecraft to the other side of the asteroid so it won’t get hit by flying shards from the blast, JAXA said. While moving away, Hayabusa2 will leave a camera to capture the outcome.

Japan
JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. VOA

The mission will allow JAXA scientists to analyze details of a crater to find out the history of the asteroid, said Koji Wada, who is in charge of the project.

Hayabusa2 will start descending toward the asteroid the day before to carry out the mission from its home position of 20 kilometers (12 miles) above. It will drop a cone-shaped piece of equipment containing explosives that will blast off a copper plate on the bottom. It will turn into a ball and slam into the asteroid at the speed of 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) per second.

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JAXA has previously planned to have Hayabusa2 briefly touchdown in a crater, but an agency researcher, Takashi Kubota, said they may not force it to prioritize safety for the spacecraft. Kubota said it would be the first time a spacecraft would take materials from underground a space object.

The asteroid, named Ryugu after an undersea palace in a Japanese folktale, is about 900 meters (3,000 feet) in diameter and about 300 million kilometers (180 million miles) from Earth. (VOA)