This asteroid is a corallivore, almost exclusively consuming live sclerectinian corals. An average sized adult (40 cm) can kill up to 478 square cm of live coral per day through its grazing activities. The crown-of-thorns starfish can be seen as an ongoing disturbance factor on the reef, removing swaths of clonal corals in its path, and opening up bare areas of coral rock for settlement and recruitment of other species of sessile invertebrates. Thus, A. planci can be seen to have a role in diversifying the habitat. However, if coral cover is drastically reduced, populations of coral reef specialists (animals that depend exclusively on coral cover for shelter and food) may decrease. Thus the impact of A. planci in their environment depends on how abundant they become.
Acanthaster planci harbors several genera of ectoparasitic copepod crustaceans on its dermal surface.
- Glynn, P. 1976. Some physical and biological determinants of coral community structure in the Eastern Pacific. Ecological Monographs, 46 (4): 431-456.
- Mah, C. 2010. "WoRMS Taxon Details: Acanthaster planci" (On-line). World Asteroidea database. Accessed through: World Register of Marine Species. Accessed May 24, 2011 at http://www.marinespecies.org/aphia.php?p=taxdetails&id=213289.
- Wilson, S., S. Burgess, A. Cheal, M. Emslie, R. Fisher, I. Miller, N. Polunin, H. Sweatman. 2008. Habitat utilization by coral reef fish: Implications for specialists vs. generalists in a changing environment. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77 (2): 220-228.