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A major outbreak of coral-eating crown of thorns starfish has been found munching Australia's world heritage-listed Great Barrier Reef, scientists said Friday, prompting the government to begin culling the spiky marine animals. The predator starfish feeds on corals by spreading its stomach over them and using digestive enzymes to liquefy tissue, and the outbreak hits as the reef is still reeling from two consecutive years of major coral bleaching. There have been four major crown of thorns outbreaks since the 1960s in the Great Barrier Reef but it recovered each time because there were always healthy populations of herbivorous fish.The reef is still recovering from damage wrought by the worst-ever coral bleaching on record, which in 2016 killed two-thirds of a 700-km stretch of reef.
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