If you could take love, bottle it, and sell it, you'd be a billionaire by tomorrow. That's what some scientists are trying to do. Scientists at the Queen Mary University of London are seeing how oxytocin, the 'love hormone' works in starfish. Oxytocin, more commonly known as the 'love hormone', is important for sexual reproduction in humans, other mammals, and even nematode worms, but this study shows that in the common European starfish (Asterias Rubens) it is important for feeding. The findings could be instrumental in saving the coral reefs, a major food supply for the crown of thorns starfish. Oxytocin in starfish causes starfish to have rapid and immediate hunger. However, in mice, oxytocin, has been known to cause nausea and lack of eating. The hope is to find a way to hide this expressive gene.
Scientists at Queen Mary University in London are trying to find an accessible and effective way of dosing a correct amount of chemically inactive oxytocin near the coral reefs to prevent the starfish from completely consuming the coral reefs.
Starfish feed naturally by climbing on top of prey such as mussels or oysters and adopting a rigid humped posture so that they can employ the pulling power of lots of tiny tube feet on the underside of each arm to pull apart the two valves of their prey.
Professor Elphick of Queen Mary University of London states, "What is fascinating is that injecting the hormone in starfish induces what is known as fictive feeding. The starfish are behaving as if they are feeding on a mussel or an oyster but no mussel or oyster is there to be eaten."
If scientists are able to come up with this noneffective oxytocin replacement for starfish, then the coral reefs may be saved from being eaten. Every year miles and miles of coral reef are destroyed by environmental factors, especially human interactions. If we can help limit their destruction, we may be able to preserve them for future generations. This oxytocin research seems like a good place to start!