Vanessa Messmer

Vanessa Messmer
James Cook University · ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

PhD

About

45
Publications
16,315
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1,453
Citations

Publications

Publications (45)
Article
• Spatial and temporal stochasticity in the abundance and population dynamics of crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS; Acanthaster spp.) highlight the critical need for improved knowledge of demographic variability within and among populations. • This study compared the prevalence (proportion of individuals) and severity (extent of damage) of injuries in...
Article
Population irruptions of the western Pacific crown-of-thorns sea star (Acanthaster sp.) are a perennial threat to coral reefs and may be initiated by fluctuations in reproductive or settlement success. However, the processes dictating their early life history, particularly larval settlement, remain poorly understood given limitations in sampling la...
Article
Crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) is reported to have exceptional reproductive capacity, but this has been largely inferred based on the overall weight of gonads (and mostly for females), and there are limited estimates of the concentration of gametes within gametogenic tissues. This study quantified gamete concentrations for both male an...
Article
Full-text available
Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns seastars (CoTS) are one of the leading causes of coral decline on Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Predator removal has been proposed to be a possible mechanism contributing to CoTS outbreaks in this region. Although some data exist on predation of adults, little work has been conducted on predators of juvenile CoTS. The aim o...
Article
Full-text available
Population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns seastars (CoTS; Acanthaster spp.) are contributing to extensive coral loss and reef degradation throughout the Indo-Pacific, but the causes and underlying mechanisms of population maintenance and outbreaks are equivocal. Two recent publications suggest that, in addition to outbreeding sexual reproduction, ase...
Article
Full-text available
Population outbreaks of the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) have resulted in extensive coral mortality on reefs in the Indo-Pacific region and is considered one of the major contributors of significant declines in coral cover in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Effective management of CoTS outbreaks rely on improved understanding...
Article
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The chevron butterflyfish, Chaetodon trifascialis, is among the most specialised coral-feeding fish, and while it is known to be very susceptible to extensive depletion of its preferred coral prey (tabular Acropora spp.), their specific responses to changing coral cover are poorly understood. The purpose of this study was to test for variation in t...
Article
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Increasing degradation of coral reef ecosystems and specifically, loss of corals is causing significant and widespread declines in the abundance of coral reef fishes, but the proximate cause(s) of these declines are largely unknown. Here, we examine specific responses to host coral mortality for three species of coral-dwelling damselfishes (Dascyll...
Article
Full-text available
Population irruptions of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) contribute greatly to the degradation of coral reefs throughout the Indo-Pacific. Effective management of these population irruptions is limited, in part, by incomplete knowledge of their early life history. Importantly, there are very limited data on the distribution and abundanc...
Article
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There are a wide range of Scleractinian corals that are collected for the global reef aquarium market, often from non-reefal environments. The sustainability of coral harvesting is potentially threatened by increasing anthropogenic disturbances and climate change, though it is unknown to what extent many commonly harvested corals are susceptible to...
Article
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Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) represent a major threat to coral reef ecosystems throughout the Indo-Pacific, and there is significant interest in whether no-take marine reserves could moderate the frequency or severity of outbreaks. Herein, we investigate whether the incidence and severity of sublethal injuries among juve...
Article
Full-text available
Outbreaks of crown-of-thorns seastars (CoTS; Acanthaster spp.) are a major contributor to degradation of Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Understanding the dispersal and fate of planktonic life stages is crucial to understand and manage outbreaks, but visual detection of CoTS larvae is challenging. We apply a quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay to enumerate CoT...
Article
Numerous hypotheses have been put forward to account for population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfishes (CoTS, Acanthaster spp.), which place specific importance on either pre- or post-settlement mechanisms. The purpose of this review is to specifically assess the contributions of pre- versus post-settlement processes in the population dynamics...
Article
After being caught and released by a fishery, some animals may be sufficiently impaired so as to be vulnerable to predators. The duration and severity of post-release impairments have rarely been studied under natural conditions ; the vitality of animals is usually assessed aboard a vessel, prior to release, while examinations of post-release behav...
Article
Full-text available
Research on the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) has waxed and waned over the last few decades, mostly in response to population outbreaks at specific locations. This review considers advances in our understanding of the biology and ecology of CoTS based on the resurgence of research interest, which culminated in this current special is...
Article
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The movement capacity of the crown-of-thorns starfishes (Acanthaster spp.) is a primary determinant of both their distribution and impact on coral assemblages. We quantified individual movement rates for the Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster solaris) ranging in size from 75–480 mm total diameter, across three different substrates (sand,...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research on the coral-eating crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) has waxed and waned over the last few decades, mostly in accordance with the occurrence of population outbreaks at key locations, such as Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. This review considers advances in our understanding of the biology and ecology of CoTS based on the latest resurgence o...
Article
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Global climate change is increasingly considered one of the major threats to tropical coastal fisheries, potentially undermining important revenue and food security provided by coral reef ecosystems. While there has been significant and increasing work on understanding specific effects of climate change on coral reef fishes, few studies have consid...
Article
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Larval dispersal is a critical yet enigmatic process in the persistence and productivity of marine metapopulations. Empirical data on larval dispersal remain scarce, hindering the use of spatial management tools in efforts to sustain ocean biodiversity and fisheries. Here we document dispersal among subpopulations of clownfish (Amphiprion percula)...
Article
Specific patterns in the initiation and spread of reef-wide outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish are important, both to understand potential causes (or triggers) of outbreaks and to develop more effective and highly targeted management and containment responses. Using analyses of genetic diversity and structure (based on 17 microsatellite loci), t...
Article
Full-text available
Despite the presence of numerous sharp poisonous spines, adult crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS) are vulnerable to predation, though the importance and rates of predation are generally unknown. This study explores variation in the incidence and severity of injuries for Acanthaster cf. solaris from Australia's Great Barrier Reef. The major cause of su...
Article
Full-text available
Predatory release has long been considered a potential contributor to population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (CoTS; Acanthaster spp.). This has initiated extensive searches for potentially important predators that can consume large numbers of CoTS at high rates, which are also vulnerable to over-fishing or reef degradation. Herein, we rev...
Article
Climate warming is likely to interact with other stressors to challenge the physiological capacities and survival of phenotypes within populations. This may be especially true for the billions of fishes per year that undergo vigorous exercise prior to escaping or being intentionally released from fishing gear. Using adult coral grouper (Plectropomu...
Article
Full-text available
The corallivorous crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) is a major cause of coral mortality on Indo-Pacific reefs. Despite considerable research into the biology of crown-of-thorns starfish, our understanding of the early post-settlement life stage has been hindered by the small size and cryptic nature of recently settled individuals. Most gr...
Article
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Climate change is one of the greatest threats to the persistence of coral reefs. Sustained and ongoing increases in ocean temperatures and acidification are altering the structure and function of reefs globally. Here, we summarise recent advances in our understanding of the effects of climate change on scleractinian corals and reef fish. Although t...
Article
Corals and coral-associated species are highly vulnerable to the emerging effects of global climate change. The widespread degradation of coral reefs, which will be accelerated by climate change, jeopardizes the goods and services that tropical nations derive from reef ecosystems. However, climate change impacts to reef social–ecological systems ca...
Article
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Increased ocean temperature due to climate change is raising metabolic demands and energy requirements of marine ectotherms. If productivity of marine systems and fisheries are to persist, individual species must compensate for this demand through increasing energy acquisition or decreasing energy expenditure. Here we reveal that the most important...
Article
Full-text available
Population outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish (Acanthaster spp.) represent one of the most significant biological disturbances on Indo-Pacific coral reefs. Here, we combine 15 published and 11 newly isolated polymorphic microsatellite markers from the coral-eating starfish, A. cf. planci and describe their integration into four multiplex PCRs. A...
Article
Full-text available
Coral reef ecosystems are under a variety of threats from global change and anthropogenic disturbances that are reducing the number and type of coral species on reefs. Coral reefs support upwards of one third of all marine species of fish, so the loss of coral habitat may have substantial consequences to local fish diversity. We posit that the effe...
Article
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The global decline in biodiversity is causing increasing concern about the effects of biodiversity loss on ecosystem services such as productivity. Biodiversity has been hypothesised to be important in maintaining productivity of biological assemblages because niche complementarity and facilitation among the constituent species can result in more e...
Article
Abstract Fisheries and marine park management strategies for large predatory reef fish can mean that a large proportion of captured fish are released. Despite being released, these fish may experience high mortality while they traverse the water column to locate suitable refuge to avoid predators, all the while recovering from the stress of capture...
Article
Large-bodied fish are critical for sustaining coral reef fisheries, but little is known about the vulnerability of these fish to global warming. This study examined the effects of elevated temperatures on the movement and activity patterns of the common coral trout Plectropomus leopardus (Serranidae), which is an important fishery species in tropic...
Article
Full-text available
Population outbreaks of the coral-feeding crown of thorns starfish, Acanthaster planci (Fig. 1a), are, with storms, the most significant disturbance on coral reefs in the western Pacific (e.g., De'ath et al. 2012). Controlling outbreaks of A. planci is therefore increasingly viewed as a key strategy in reducing coral loss and reef degradation. Init...
Article
The relationship between genetic diversity and species diversity provides insights into biogeography and historic patterns of evolution and is critical for developing contemporary strategies for biodiversity conservation. Although concordant large-scale clines in genetic and species diversity have been described for terrestrial organisms, whether t...
Article
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Increased habitat diversity is often predicted to promote the diversity of animal communities because a greater variety of habitats increases the opportunities for species to specialize on different resources and coexist. Although positive correlations between the diversities of habitat and associated animals are often observed, the underlying mech...
Article
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Coral reef ecosystems are increasingly subject to severe, large-scale disturbances caused by climate change (e.g., coral bleaching) and other more direct anthropogenic impacts. Many of these disturbances cause coral loss and corresponding changes in habitat structure, which has further important effects on abundance and diversity of coral reef fish...
Article
The vulnerability of ecologically specialised species to environmental fluctuations has been well documented. However, population genetic structure can influence vulnerability to environmental change and recent studies have indicated that specialised species may have lower genetic diversity and greater population structuring compared to their gener...
Article
A half century ago the State of Hawaii began a remarkable, if unintentional, experiment on the population genetics of introduced species, by releasing 2431 Bluestriped Snappers (Lutjanus kasmira) from the Marquesas Islands in 1958 and 728 conspecifics from the Society Islands in 1961. By 1992 L. kasmira had spread across the entire archipelago, inc...
Article
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Here we use molecular techniques to characterize the introduction of the blue-lined snapper Lutjanus kasmira (Lutjanidae) to the Hawaiian Islands. L. kasmira inhabits coral reefs throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans; however, it is not native to the Hawaiian archipelago. In the 1950's the Hawaii Division of Fish and Game introduced a total of 3...
Conference Paper
In previous studies, members of the three-spot damselfish species complex composed by four nominal species: Dascyllus albisella Gill, D. auripinnis Randall and Randall, D. strasburgi Klausewitz, and D. trimaculatus (Ruppell) were sampled from the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Rim (Japan to Wallis Island), French Polynesia, Hawaii, and Marquesas. Analys...
Article
Full-text available
Body colour has played a significant role in the evolution of coral reef fishes, but the phylogenetic level at which colour variation is expressed and the evolutionary processes driving the development and persistence of different colour patterns are often poorly understood. The aim of this study was to examine the genetic relationships between mul...
Article
Full-text available
Many recognised species of coral reef fishes exhibit two or more colour variants, but it is unknown whether these represent genetically identical phenotypes, genetic polymorphisms or closely related species. We tested between these alternatives for two colour morphs of the coral reef fish, Pseudochromis fuscus, from Lizard Island (Great Barrier Ree...

Projects

Projects (2)
Project
Applying new technologies and advances in biological research to better understand population dynamics of crown-of-thonrs starfish, specifically comparing among distinct species of Acanthater spp. and looking for changes in key demographic rates in the lead up to population outbreaks.