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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

"They're actually more like an animal than a cucumber...aren't they?"   "Yes, Mum..."


Holothuria atra is a commonly found species of sea cucumber throughout the Indo-pacific, including on the Great Barrier Reef.  It is able to be distinguished from other species of sea cucumbers by the presence of black ‘spots’, regions of its body where the outer skin layer is visible because it is not covered in sand (Fig. 1).      

Figure 1: Holothuria atra on the inner-reef flat, Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef


H. atra is most commonly found on top of the sediment in shallow, sandy areas in the inner reef zone. They are deposit feeders meaning they process the organic material present in the sediment for consumption.

H. atra reproduces either sexually, via spawning, or asexually, through transverse binary fission (where one animal splits and regenerates into two new individuals).

In order to further understand the physiology of H. atra, and hopefully gain an insight into why they have ‘spots’, cross-sections of the epidermis (outer skin layer) were prepared from dissected samples and analysed at the lab in Brisbane.  Glands connected to pores (depressions in the epidermis) were observed in some sections. The function of these glands is hypothesised to be storage and secretion, most likely related to the unique defensive mechanism in this species of sea cucumber. 



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