So, if predators can play such a big indirect role on prey species just by being present, can we use this to our benefit?
For example, i mentioned those little white things called barnacles that are found fouling boats. In the 2015 paper (and other research conducted in the same lab) we found that they settled (fouled) less nearby their predator. And they are not the only ones! Another pesky fouler is the mussel. Yes, even if we like to grow it for food, it can also foul water outlets from industry or sewage (and no, you don’t want to eat those mussels!), and cause some big problems when they grow big. But on my most recent paper (just out! Read it here) we found that they stay well away from areas where starfish are present, and that their effects magnify over time. Maybe because the ones still swimming can smell their friends and are attracted, maybe because they can smell more and more the fear from the others, maybe because starfish give out more smell as everything becomes impregnated, whatever it is, starfish can be a successful deterrant!
What does it mean!? That maybe if you want to attract small mussels (for fisheries for example) you might want to remove all the potential threatening smells, but it could also mean a revolution in anti fouling paints! Think about it, paints can be natural and be finally copper free, tbt free, chemical free (or chemical lowered?). Of course, being mindful of the starfish population, and mindful of the balance of nature. Nonetheless - in fear we hope!
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