Scientists and wildlife officials have tried everything to lure crown-of-thorns starfish — a species of coral-eating starfish — away from the Great Barrier Reef: They've injected them with vinegar, removed them by hand and even gone after them with robot assassins.
But it turns out that sex may have been the answer all along.
Before you jump to the worst possible conclusions, this is no repeat of that dolphin experiment from the 1960s. This time, scientists are simply harnessing the suggestion of sex, in the form of pheromones.
In a study published in Nature, Australian and Japanese researchers describe how they analyzed the genes of crown-of-thorns starfish (also known as COTS) and decoded their pheromones.
They say their findings may help marine biologists figure out how to create synthetic versions of these sex chemicals that they can then use to lure COTS away from the reef.
Bernard Degnan, one of the study's authors, told the Guardian they won't be able to put this pheromone bait into practice for another three to five years.
"The report was phase one," he said. "Phase two is fabricating the baits, and once we have them, we’ll test them on a small scale in an aquarium."
We get it. Seduction takes time.