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Robot: Great Barrier Reef Has Tech Savior?

Sep 04, 2015 04:35 PM EDT
Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS)
Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are responsible for a 40 percent decline of coral cover on the Great Barrier Reef, according to a 2012 study.
(Photo : Flickr: Matt Kieffer)

Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) are very large sea stars that eat large swaths of coral, causing fish to desert those areas. They're sometimes called a bigger threat than global warming to the Great Barrier Reef, and a 2012 study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science found that COTS are responsible for more than 40 percent of the decline in the reef's coral cover. In response, robotics scientists from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have developed a robot designed to identify and eliminate the large, ravenous starfish from coral reefs. The new mechanism's name? COTSbot. 

"We see the COTSbot as a first responder for ongoing eradication programs - deployed to eliminate the bulk of COTS in any area, with divers following a few days later to hit the remaining COTS," Dr. Matthew Dunbabin, creator of the COTSbot from QUT's Institute for Future Environments, said in a news release.

According to the release, the roboticists recently completed their first COTSbot sea trials in Queensland's Moreton Bay, where they tested its mechanical parts and navigation system. The robot is designed to search the reef for up to eight hours at a time. During this time it can deliver more than 200 lethal shots to attack the unwanted starfish. 

The roboticists plan to have the COTSbot working the reef autonomously by December. 

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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