Jan 21, 2019 | Updated: 04:07 PM EST

Recovery Of Caribbean Long-Spined Sea Urchin Is Obstructed With The Aggressive Competitor, Study Finds

May 17, 2017 02:32 AM EDT


The study has found the implication of the overfishing of higher predator has increased the aggressive reef predator in the Caribbean reef. As a result, the recovery of Caribbean long-spined sea urchin is obstructed.

The Caribbean long-spined sea urchin mysteriously died off in the 1980's after a mysterious disease to the species in Caribbean coral reef. Scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has conducted the study to analyze the impedance of the recovery of the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin.

Katie Kramer, a marine ecologist at the Scripps and fellow marine ecologist Dick Norris studied the amount of the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin over the past 3,000 years by analyzing the reef fossil. They use the reef fossil to peek into the life of Caribbean long-spined sea urchin and its competitors and the impact of its appearance on the ecology. They later analyzed the study using the modeling approach of other Scripps ecologist George Sugihara to figure out the cause-and-effect relationships in the marine ecological systems.

Their study found that the abundant increase of algae and staghorn coral, one of the coral species, related to the decreasing of Caribbean long-spined sea urchin. The scientists believe this was caused by the aggressiveness of Threespot Damselfish, a competitor of the long-spined urchin to drive out the urchin out of their territory.

“These damselfish pick up urchins and move them off the coral with their mouths,” Cramer said explaining how the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin was removed by the fish. “Damselfish populations appear to have grown recently as their predators have been overfished”

The abundance of Damselfish that compete with Caribbean long-spined sea urchin was believed to be the result of overfishing of its predators such as grouper and snapper. The scientists have published the recent findings of the study in the journal Ecography.

The study finds an interesting correlation between overfishing, the Caribbean long-spined sea urchin and marine ecosystem. Watch the video of the research below:

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