Holothurian Distinction

After first being introduced to the “live” world of ocean exploration this last June, I have wrote a few articles on the finds of both NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer, and the Nautilus, which is funded by many different exploration groups as well as by NOAA.

Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library

A creature that both have seen at their different destinations on more than one occasion is the holothurian, or sea cucumber. The terrestrial equivalent to these exciting creatures are the earthworm, as they share the common goal to recycle base nutrients in their environments and return them to the ecosystem. Thus their primary diet is earth.

Like the sea stars I have spoken of before, holothurians are Echinoderms. What all of the creatures in this phylum have in common is that they are radially symmetric, among other things. There are some classes of echinodermata that do not appear to be radially symmetric, such as the holothurian and echinoid, or sea urchin, but a closer look at their body structures reveals that they are.

Most of the holothurians we witnessed were purple or pink and usually very gelatinous. In the case of the Nautilus and their most recent expedition in the Caribbean, the holothurians have been seen time and again swimming through the water in a graceful sort of dance. The first thing that stood out to me when beginning my research was the continual reference to their benthic tendencies. Obviously, I was confused. The images I saw were of fat and solid-looking worms, more often than not prickly, nothing at all like the gentle, clear organisms I had seen live. I changed my objective to finding the difference in the species and found out a great deal.

Courtesy of NOAA Photo Library

The species I was looking for are called free-swimming holothurians. For example, the genus Enypniastes and species of Peniagone and Paelopatides. I was thrilled when I found this distinction. My research stump had a breakthrough. But unfortunately for you, this post has drawn to an end. More on the subject coming soon, so stay tuned!

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