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Persistent Gaps of Knowledge for Naming and Distinguishing Multiple Species of Crown-of-Thorns-Seastar in the Acanthaster planci Species Complex

Staatliche Naturwissenschaftliche Sammlungen Bayerns (SNSB)-Zoological State Collection, Münchhausenstraße 21, D-81247 Munich, Germany
Department Biology II and GeoBio-Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Paleontology & Geobiology, and GeoBio-Center, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Richard-Wagner-Straße 10, D-80333 Munich, Germany
SNSB-Bavarian State Collections of Palaeontology and Geology, D-81827 Munich, Germany
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Morgan Pratchett and Sven Uthicke
Diversity 2017, 9(2), 22;
Received: 19 September 2016 / Revised: 18 April 2017 / Accepted: 9 May 2017 / Published: 12 May 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biology, Ecology and Management of Crown-of-Thorns Starfish)
PDF [800 KB, uploaded 12 May 2017]


Nearly a decade ago, DNA barcoding (partial mitochondrial COI gene sequences) showed that there are at least four species in the Indo-Pacific within what was previously conceived to be a single Crown-of-Thorns-Seastar (COTS) species, Acanthaster planci. Two of these species—A. planci Linnaeus, 1758, distributed in the North Indian Ocean, and A. mauritiensis de Loriol, 1885, distributed in the South Indian Ocean—have been already unequivocally named. In contrast, the Pacific COTS (proposed name: A. solaris (Schreber, 1795) and the COTS from the Red Sea (still to be named) require further taxonomic work. COI barcoding sequences and Barcode Identification Numbers (BINs) are available for all four COTS species in the global Barcode of Life Database (BOLD). We recommend depositing voucher specimens or tissue samples suitable for DNA analyses when studying any aspect of COTS, and use BINs to identify species, to ensure that no information is lost on species allocation until unequivocal Linnean names are available for the Pacific and Red Sea species as well. We also review the differences between COTS species with respect to morphology, ecology, and toxicity. Future studies should widen the current biogeographic coverage of the different COTS species by strategically sampling neglected areas, especially at the geographic distribution limits of each species, to enhance our understanding of the diversity of this reef coral predator. View Full-Text
Keywords: COTS; taxonomy; Linnean names; DNA-barcodes; Barcode Index Numbers; biogeography COTS; taxonomy; Linnean names; DNA-barcodes; Barcode Index Numbers; biogeography

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Haszprunar, G.; Vogler, C.; Wörheide, G. Persistent Gaps of Knowledge for Naming and Distinguishing Multiple Species of Crown-of-Thorns-Seastar in the Acanthaster planci Species Complex. Diversity 2017, 9, 22.

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