Pherecardia striata, an amphinomid polychaete worm, is abundant in Panama on Pacific pocilloporid coral reefs where it feeds on live and injured asteroids (Acanthaster planci and phanerozonic sea stars). Pherecardia was not present on coral reefs in Samoa and Guam.
Pherecardia has a varied diet, including red algae, detritus, crustaceans, polychaete worms, molluscs, sea stars and other items; laboratory observations indicate that the worm locates its prey by weak chemoreception, and that it prefers crustaceans over most other prey. The diversity
of species of animals feeding on sea stars (at least 12 species) in Panama was higher than in Guam and Samoa. Attack rates by predators and scavengers were also higher in Panama compared with Guam and Samoa. Disintegration rates of dead Acanthaster were highest in Panama (4 days versus
8 days in Guam), probably a result of the intensity of predation and scavenging there. No evidence exists for Acanthaster outbreaks in Panama, where Pherecardia and a shrimp (Hymenocera pieta) are abundant and together seem to keep the number of sea stars at a low level.
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