Crown-of-Thorns Starfish

January 29, 2020

CrownofThorns_AZ7Y7393_acanthaster_planci (003)

Photographer: Martin Dietzel 
Summary Author: Martin Dietzel 

While walking along the shoreline of the Dhaalu Atoll in the Maldives, I came upon this odd type of starfish (sea star) that I’d never seen before. Its purple color was really remarkable. I did a little research and realized that this must be a crown-of-thorns starfish (species Acanthaster planci). I’m glad I didn’t make an effort to catch one since its spiky surface can release toxins if handled, inflicting pain and possibly infection.

The crown-of-thorns is huge – it’s one of the world’s largest starfish. This specimen had a diameter of approximately 16 in (40 cm). Looking around, I noticed several others, but they were in slightly deeper water, atop pieces of coral. In fact, they feed on coral and have been known to cause considerable damage to coral reefs. Photo taken on September 28, 2019.