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Sea Cucumber

 Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumbers are soft-bodied animals and belong to phylum Echinodermata. They typically comb the sea floor, feeding on organic sediment. Increase numbers of sea cucumber can be a sign of organic pollution. Sea cucumbers have an unusual method of respiration; they take in water through their anus to breathe. When disturbed or frightened some sea cucumbers pour out a mass of sticky white threads to repel or trap their enemies. Others are capable of releasing toxins which, in aquaria, have been known to kill all the animals, including the sea cucumbers themselves.

Excessive collection of these animals for food is a serious threat for otherwise common animals. In some areas like coastal Konkan they were exterminated two decades ago. Thankfully, reintroduction by local fishery institutes bring back some of the species. Collection of all sea cucumbers is now banned under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Despite the ban, illegal trade of these animals continues unabaited in places like Andaman, Tamilnadu. In Lakshadweep however, local customs prevent people collecting these animals thus providing them safe heaven.

Sea cucumbers are nature best sand cleaners. They feed on dead and decaing mater and inturn clean sand of putrifing material.

Holothuria atra (Black Sea Cucumber): This is one of the most abundant sea cucumbers in coastal areas. It has a very soft body. This species is common on sand flats, and can be seen actively feeding on detritus.

Holothuria nobilis (White-teated Sea Cucumber): The White-teated Sea Cucumber is a large sea cucumber and has many projections at the base. It is black with white spots.

Holothuria hilla: A small and slender sea cucumber it grows up to 15 cm. The bright orange colour with yellow spiny processes makes identification easy.

Holothuria pervicax: It is a small sea cucumber growing up to 15 cm and uncommon species from reef flats. Body is tuberculated and each tubercle have pink tip. It mostly remains under coral boulders and is nocturnal species.

Thelenota ananas (Prickly Sea Cucumber): A large sea cucumber (70 cm), the Prickly Sea Cucumber has pointed and branched papillae. This reddish brown species is usually seen in shallow waters.

Synapta maculata (Worm Sea Cucumber): Among sea cucumbers, the Worm Sea Cucumber is unusual. It grows up to 2 m and has a very extensible body. This species prefers grassy or sandy areas. If touched, it can contract its body to less than 6-8 cm, and also break into several pieces.

Euapta godeffroyi (Banded Sea Cucumber): The Banded Sea Cucumber looks like the Worm Sea Cucumber, but with much brighter colours. This sea cucumber is sticky and when touched the tube-feet immediately grip the hand.

Pearsonothuria graeffei (Blackmouth Sea Cucumber): A large sea cucumber (45 cm), this species is common in deeper waters. The black tentacles help to identify the species.

Holothuria atra Black sea cucumber congregationHolothuria nobilis

Holothuria atra                                                                          Holothuria nobilis 

Holothuria hilla1Holothuria pervicax


Holothuria hilla                                                                          Holothuria pervicax

Thelenota ananas Prickly Cucumber 1Synapta maculata Worm cucumber


Thelenota ananas                                                                     Synapta maculata 

Euapta godeffroyi2Pearsonothuria graeffei Blackmouth Sea Cucumber


Euapta godeffroyi                                                                  Pearsonothuria graeffei

 Holothuria atra Black Sea Cucumber.spawning low

Black Sea Cucumber: This rare image of male sea cucumber releasing sperms captured on camera in Lakshadweep won me Sanctuary Image of the Year award in 2009


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