Vinegar just as effective at killing crown of thorns starfish as current drug: Study

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The fight against crown of thorns starfish (CoTS) has a new weapon at its disposal – vinegar – which the researchers say is highly efficient at killing the coral eating pest.

In a paper, researchers at James Cook University, Australia have revealed how vinegar can be used to kill the starfish at half the price than the currently available drug. Lead author Lisa Boström-Einarsson said that divers use 10 or 12 ml of ox-bile to kill each CoTS, but it is not only expensive, but also hard to procure. Further, if the bile isn’t mixed to the right concentration, the starfish won’t die.

Vinegar on the other hand is available easily and at a much lesser cost and can even be bought off the shelf at any local supermarket.

The researchers carried out tests on CoTS and found that vinegar as a poison for the starfish was highly effective and all starfish dead within 48 hours of being injected. The dead starfish was then fed to fish and researchers say they found no ill-effects in the fish that fed upon the starfish.

Though the tests carried out by JCU were more or less conclusive, Ms Boström-Einarsson is of the opinion that a large-scale field trials to be sure the process is totally safe for other marine life.

“There’s no reason to think it won’t work or it’ll be dangerous, but we have to be sure,” she said.

CoTS are one of the main reasons behind decline of coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef. With an estimated 4 to 12 million of the starfish on the Great Barrier Reef alone, and each female capable of laying 65 million eggs in a single breeding season, the starfish menace is a real one.

Though researchers are looking for ways to stem the population growth of CoTS, as of now one-by-one killing is the only option.

You can find more images and a video here.


Researchers at Queensland University of Technology have developed a robot capable of finding, identifying and then killing the CoTS.

While authorities and volunteers have upped their efforts to get rid of the COTS, manual work isn’t just enough and practical. The situation called for a new approach – one that can be automated and is highly efficient.

COTSbot is their answer according to Dr Matthew Dunbabin from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments, who created the robot. A state-of-the-art robot equipped with stereoscopic cameras, thrusters, GPS, pitch-and-roll sensors and a unique pneumatic injection arm to deliver a fatal dose of bile salts, COTSbot is a promise that can deliver and provide safety to the corals of the Great Barrier Reef.