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Sea Cucumbers in the Whitsundays

Updated Wed 03 Jan 2024

A popular sighting while snorkelling, swimming and scuba diving around the Whitsundays islands is the sea cucumber, which live on the sea floor. Similar in appearance to an on-land cucumber, sea cucumbers are extremely common in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and feed simply on debris and decaying matter they find on the sea floor. They are almost completely harmless to humans however it is important to note that you should not touch or pick up anything. They, like many of the species in the Great Barrier Reef, play an important role to the overall survival of the ecosystem.

Here are some facts about sea cucumbers in the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park: 

  • The technical name of the cucumber is ubiquitous holothurian
  • It was the first export from Australia
  • They can live 5 - 10 years in the wild
  • Sea cucumbers can breed sexually and asexually, but normally spawn en masse
  • They are said to have medicinal powers
  • They are from the same family as sea urchins and sea stars
  • They breathe by drawing water in through their anus and absorbing the oxygen
  • They have a symbiotic relationship with the pearl fish
  • They need on decaying matter
  • Sea cucumbers have a unique defence mechanism where they shoot a sticky substance as their potential attackers
  • As they are echinoderms, they are regrow missing parts
  • Sea cucumbers have no spine and are an invertebrates
  • There are about 1 250 species of sea cucumber worldwide 
  • They have suction cup feet like sea stars that help them move
  • Moving at a slow rate, they make their way around the reef to eat
  • Their faeces are said to potentially help reverse the facts of climate change
  • Holothurin is toxic and created by sea cucumbers
  • They are eaten as a delicacy in some countries
  • While they have a high population, they are at risk due to overfishing
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