This book is a history of the outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish over the past 30 years. These outbreaks have at times appeared likely to consume coral reffs in many parts of the world, threatening some of the most picturesque, diverse, and scientifically and economically valuable of the earth's ecosystems. The story provides a case study for assessing our understanding of the balance of nature, and whether such a balance really exists. We learn that human-induced and naturally occurring processes are profoundly intertwined, as are the interests and ideas of scientists and political advocates.

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