Sunday, 2 September 2018

corallivorous predator

Underwritten in part by Google, we learn via Slashdot that those working to preserve Australia’s Great Barrier Reef have gotten a new, powerful ally in the form of Rangerbot, an autonomous aquatic drone that is designed to detect and administer a lethal injection to a very specific type of starfish plaguing the reef.
The crown-of-thorns starfish feeds exclusively on coral polyps—which makes it seem already like the most rubbish, laziest hunter in the animal kingdom already—and while not an invasive species, overfishing and climate change have made those creatures who’d help keep the starfish’s numbers in check are few and few and the starfish is free to munch on the coral unchecked. Scuba divers have been culling this poisonous pest responsible for coral bleaching and nearly as much harm as fertiliser run-off, overfishing and warming oceans for years themselves, but this drone will patrol the reef day and night, programmed not to give its poisoned injection if there is any doubt about the identity and guilt of the target, as well as gathering a wealth of data on the health and well-being of the ecosystem. What do you think? It strikes me as a preferable alternative than swallowing a spider to catch the fly but deputising a drone with license to kill seems (especially in the light of a New Zealand island debating the outlawing of cats for similar reasons) problematic.