Echinoderm has to be one of the more wonderful gifts from the ancient Greek language, it means hedgehog skin! Within this phylum we find starfish, sea urchins as well as our creature of the week… the sea cucumber.
There are over 1,700 species of sea cucumber and they are to be found on the seafloor the world over, with many of the species found in the waters of the Asia Pacific region. The sea cucumber fits very well into our unusual creature theme here in South Lombok as they’re pretty weird 🙂 Some are prickly like the pineapple sea cucumber (Thelenota ananas – pictured below), some look like they have feet (Pearsonothuria graeffei) and some… well… they look like intestines with a mouth that’s straight out of a horror movie (Euapta lappa), we love them all.
Speaking of intestines, when threatened or disturbed, many species of sea cucumbers eject “cuvierian tubules, thin white sticky strands of viscera, from their cloacas”, basically they eject their intestines so the predator goes for those instead of them and then they grow them again later. That’s not the only amazing feature of the sea cucumber… “The threads of the Pearsonothuria graeffei species contain glycosides that are toxic to the aggressor. The chemicals, echinoside A and ds-echinoside A, are being investigated for their possible use by humans as painkillers or anti-tumor drugs. Experiments in vitro show that they have marked anti-cancer activity in Hep G2 cells and that, when given to mice with H22 hepatocellular carcinoma tumors (liver cancer), the weight of the tumors was reduced by about 50%.” – Wikipedia
Sea cucumbers are a delicacy in some countries which means their numbers are declining dramatically in some regions, just as we’re discovering how important they are to the health of the reef and possibly to the health of humanity! Other creatures also appreciate sea cucumbers, such as beautiful emperor shrimps which live on some species, using the sea cucumber as a mode of transport to take them from one feeding ground to the next (title picture above).
Our newly arrived Divemaster Interns Yann and Jil have been discovering these weird but awesome creatures on their dives here this week, as well as perfecting their rescue and snorkel teaching skills in our very calm waters in the “secret” Gilis of Sekotong.
Did you know that Sekotong in South Lombok is becoming known as the most pristine region for scuba diving in Indonesia? If you want to dive some of Indonesia’s best dive sites and most vibrant reefs – with few other divers and hordes of fish, come and join us! We also offer a full range of PADI courses for all levels. For more information or to make a booking, fill in the contact form below and we will get right back to you!