Sea cucumbers

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Sea cucumbers

Journal of Ecosystem and Ecography  is an international open access journal publishing the quality peer-reviewed research articles relevant to the field of Environmental Sciences. The journal selects the articles to be published with a single bind, peer review system, following the practices of good scholarly journals. It supports the open access policy of making scientific research accessible to one and all.

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Sea cucumbers are echinoderms from the class Holothuroidea. They are marine animals with a leathery skin and an elongated body containing a single, branched gonad. Sea cucumbers are found on the sea floor worldwide. The number of holothurian (/ˌhɒləˈθjʊəriən, ˌhoʊ-/) species worldwide is about 1,717 with the greatest number being in the Asia Pacific region.[5] Many of these are gathered for human consumption and some species are cultivated in aquaculture systems. The harvested product is variously referred to as trepang, namako, bêche-de-mer or balate. Sea cucumbers serve a useful role in the marine ecosystem as they help recycle nutrients, breaking down detritus and other organic matter after which bacteria can continue the degradation process.

Like all echinoderms, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin, calcified structures that are usually reduced to isolated microscopic ossicles (or sclerietes) joined by connective tissue. In some species these can sometimes be enlarged to flattened plates, forming an armour. In pelagic species such as Pelagothuria natatrix (Order Elasipodida, family Pelagothuriidae), the skeleton is absent and there is no calcareous ring.

Most sea cucumbers, as their name suggests, have a soft and cylindrical body, more or less lengthened, rounded off and occasionally fat in the extremities, and generally without solid appendages. Their shape ranges from almost spherical for "sea apples" (genus Pseudocolochirus) to serpent-like for Apodida or the classic sausage-shape, while others resemble caterpillars. The mouth is surrounded by tentacles, which can be pulled back inside the animal. Holothurians measure generally between 10 and 30 centimetres long, with extremes of some millimetres for Rhabdomolgus ruber and up to more than 3 metres for Synapta maculata

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Journal of Ecosystem and Ecography