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You are here:   OldClasses > 2012 > Holothuria atra |Emily Purton




Holothuria atra Jaeger




 Emily Purton (2012)







Fact Sheet



Physical Description


Life History & Behaviour

Anatomy & Physiology

Evolution & Systematics

Biogeographic Distribution

Conservation & Threats

References & Links


The small morph of Holothuria atra (see page: Physical Description) is the most common species of sea cucumber that inhabits the Heron Island reef-flat (Harriot 1980). The H. atra small morph is highly abundant in the inner and outer reef-flat areas (low energy environments), whereas the large morph is more common on the reef-crest (high energy environments) (Chao et al. 1993). This pattern was observed on Heron Island in September 2012 and has also been observed in other locations such as New Caledonia (Purcell et al. 2009).

Figure 5: H. atra is very abundant in the inner reef-flat zone of Heron Island reef, southern Great Barrier Reef. 

The small morph is patchily distributed over the reef-flat zone and is also associated with shallow water (<10 metres), and coarse bottom sediments (sand grains are between 0.7 and 1.2mm in size) (Dissanayake & Stefansson 2012). The presence of small morph H. atra in the reef-flat zone is most likely due to its mode of reproduction (see page: Life History & Behaviour) (Harriot 1982). H. atra appears to be able to inhabit a large range of habitats as a study conducted in Sri Lanka demonstrated they were very abundant within seagrass beds (Dissanayake & Stefansson 2012).

Figure 6: H. atra in a shallow reef-flat habitat amongst algae and coral

Figure 7: H. atra in an open habitat consisting of coarse bottom sediment

Figure 8: H. atra can be associated with algal-dominated environments and in coral-rubble 

Symbiotic relationships between sea cucumbers and other marine animals such as the pearlfish Carapus acus (Parmentier et al. 2006) have been documented. Lissocarcinus orbicularis, a small Portunid crab, has been observed living within the buccal podia of H. atra in a commensal relationship (i.e. the crab confers a benefit from the relationship, because it is provided with shelter and food, but the sea cucumber neither benefits nor gains anything from the relationship) (Tinker 1965).



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