A South Pacific Island, Under the Microscope
Mo‘orea becomes a biodiversity lab as researchers catalogue the DNA of its species
Portions of the once vibrant reef ringing the South Pacific island of Mo‘orea are now an apocalyptic landscape of gray rubble. Under the rich turquoise-colored surface, dead coral towers lie in pieces, blanketed with a fine layer of decay.
What has caused such trouble in paradise? A nasty invasion of armored starfish. The crown of thorns (Acanthaster planci or taramea in Tahitian), with menacing poisonous spikes and a voracious appetite, literally sucks the life out of reef communities. The starfish feast on coral polyps, leaving an empty white skeleton and ransacked home for other marine species before moving on to the next meal.
(See before and after photos of the reef.)
But thanks to unique research on this island just 12 miles (20