Chemosensation is critical in marine environments, particularly for invertebrates such as Echinoderms, which have poorly developed other senses. Recent advances in genomics and transcriptomics have facilitated breakthroughs in understanding chemosensation in aquatic environments, potentially yielding novel biological control methods for invasive species including the Crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS), Acanthaster planci. COTS is a coral predator which undergoes cyclic population outbreaks and can destroy entire coral reefs. In this study, we have identified putative chemosensory rhodopsin-like G-coupled protein receptors (GPCRs) within the genome and olfactory organ transcriptomes of COTS, many of which cluster within the COTS genome. Tube feet and terminal sensory tentacles contain the highest proportion of chemoreceptors and in situ hybridisation shows specific transcript localisation within their sensory epithelia. This is the first study to identify chemosensory receptors in a starfish and our results provide a basis for future research which may enable the development of a biological control or COTS, preventing further outbreaks of this species on the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs globally.
17th International Symposium on Olfaction and Taste (ISOT2016), Yokohama, Japan 5-9 June 2016