Marine Biology

, Volume 120, Issue 1, pp 81–93 | Cite as

Biology of small juveniles of the tropical holothurian Actinopyga echinites: growth, mortality, and habitat preferences

  • W. L. Wiedemeyer


Several morphological, physiological and ecological experiments on the general biology of small juveniles (drained body weight=0.09 to 17.34 g) of Actinopyga echinites (Jäger 1833) (Echinodermata, Holothuroidea) were conducted between August 1991 and July 1992 at Bise reef flat, Okinawa, southern Japan. Supplementary experiments were carried out at the laboratory. The experiments were designed with a view to potential stock enhancement projects of A. echinites and other commercially exploited tropical sea cucumbers of the coral reef zone. During the enclosure experiments, the average percentage of drained body weight to fresh body weight of the juveniles was 48.3%. The specimens displayed a growth rate of 1500% during the 11-mo period. Their drained body weight increased from 0.87 to 12.82 g. The juveniles' internal and skeletal morphology differed considerably from the morphology of adult A. echinites. Two new types of skeletal spicules were discovered. Individual growth of all spicule types monitored differed notably, and shrinkage was observed for the two newly discovered types. Relative frequency of the spicule types within the skeletons changed with increasing body weights of the individuals. The juveniles of A. echinites displayed a strong habitat preference for plate-like substrate types such as eroded limestone or dead coral plates. Skeletons of Acropora spp. were accepted at a much lower rate. Weight-frequency distributions of the specimens on varying substrate types and between various times of the day showed significant differences. Cryptic behaviour of the juveniles was observed at all times of the day. Natural mortality of the holothurians, excluding predation and minor dislodgement effects, was low at 0.6% mo−1. When predation effects were introduced to the experiments, mortality reached a rate of 0.3% mo−1. The average percentage of predation effects within the natural mortality total was 76.8%. Juvenile A. echinites exhibited a maximum short-distance migration speed of 9 cm h−1. This was two orders of magnitude slower than the speed observed in adults (900 cm h−1) when differences in total body length were taken into consideration. The holothurians had two activity peaks during the 4-h periods monitored, around sunrise and sunset, respectively.


Coral Reef Reef Flat Predation Effect Total Body Length Stock Enhancement 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. L. Wiedemeyer
    • 1
  1. 1.Coral Reef Studies Laboratory, Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of the RyukyusNishihara, OkinawaJapan

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