Crown-of-Thorns Sea Star

Photograph by Bruce Paggeot, My Shot

The crown-of-thorns sea star carries a Biblical name, and these invertebrates can spread across coral reefs like an Old Testament plague. A single female, bristling with toxic spines, can produce up to 100 million eggs a year. The echinoderm feeds on living corals by spreading its stomach over them and secreting enzymes to liquefy the coral tissue. During outbreaks the sea stars can overwhelm Indian and Pacific Ocean reefs.