Monday, July 22, 2024

Sea Cucumbers Found To Play A Crucial Role In Reef Health


Researchers have discovered the pivotal role that sea cucumbers play in maintaining the health of the world’s reefs.

The often maligned and harvested animal is the reef’s leading trash collector and is vital to keeping the reef clean and healthy.

The research, which was carried out in the Pacific, found that the cucumbers act like the reef’s vacuum cleaners, moving over the reef and sucking up any sediments that have found their way onto the coral, which sadly tends to be generated by many human activities.

Commenting on the research, Mark Hay, the Regents’ Chair and the Harry and Anna Teasley Chair in Environmental Biology in the School of Biological Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, stated:

“It’s like if all the pine trees in Georgia disappeared over a period of 30 to 40 years. Just imagine how that affects biodiversity and ecosystems of the ocean. We knew that removing big predators has cascading effects that commonly change how ecosystems are organized and how they function…What we didn’t know is what would happen following removal of detritivores — or as we like to call them, the janitors of the system. Basically, we’ve been polluting our environs at the same time that we’ve removed all the janitors.”

While research scientist Cody Clements explained how his interest was piqued:

“I’ve planted a lot of corals in my day, and my corals generally don’t die. So I thought there must be something to this. If you remove all the scum suckers in the great fish tank of Earth, you’re going to get a dirty tank eventually. People have paid lip service to the idea that sea cucumbers could be important for a long time, but we didn’t know the scale of their importance until now. 

“Bringing these little guys back from the brink and drawing awareness to their value for ecosystems might improve the situation overall. It will take effort, but increasing the health of reefs would improve biodiversity and therefore the livelihoods of people in coastal communities.”

 You can check out the video below about the fantastic cleaning powers of sea cucumbers.

Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy
Sam Helmy is a TDI/SDI Instructor Trainer, and PADI Staff and Trimix Instructor. Diving for 28 years, a dive pro for 14, I have traveled extensively chasing my passion for diving. I am passionate about everything diving, with a keen interest in exploration, Sharks and big stuff, Photography and Decompression theory. Diving is definitely the one and only passion that has stayed with me my whole life! Sam is a Staff Writer for