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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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A ‘flowerfish’, Pearsonothuria graeffei, crawling down a reef slope at Lizard Island, Australia, where more than 100 of the animals were photographically marked.
Photo: A. R. Hammond

Hammond AR, Purcell SW

Limited long-term movement and slow growth of the sea cucumber Pearsonothuria graeffei

Sea cucumbers are heavily exploited worldwide but a lack of ecological and life-history data impedes fisheries and conservation planning. Hammond and Purcell’s photographic mark-recapture study reveals that the widely exploited black-spotted sea cucumber (Pearsonothuria graeffei) is slow growing, with a conservative lifespan of 18 yr. Despite being relatively mobile, most animals were home ranging, moving an average of just 9 m per year. This long-term study, involving multiple recaptures (recapture rate 67–72 %) over 1–2 yr, provides the first published evidence that wild sea cucumbers can lose and later gain weight again, and vice versa. The life-history traits of these sea cucumbers exacerbate their vulnerability to extinction, thus requiring conservative conservation policies.


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