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Shallow-water Sea Cucumbers (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in Sarangani Bay, Mindanao, Philippines with Notes on Their Relative Abundance

Kier Mitchel E. Pitogo1*, Jennelyn P. Sumin2, Ariel T. Ortiz2

1Animal Biology Division, Institute of Biological Sciences,
University of the Philippines Los Baños, College, Laguna 4031 Philippines
2Department of Marine Biology, College of Fisheries, Mindanao State University,
General Santos City 9500 Philippines

*Corresponding author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

ABSTRACT

The Philippines is known for its high diversity of sea cucumbers; however, there is little done on sea cucumber diversity in the southern Philippines. To augment this paucity of information, a rapid survey of the shallow-water sea cucumbers was carried out in three sites in Sarangani Bay by using the transect method for four months in both the seagrass and coral reef habitats. We recorded 21 species of sea cucumbers – 17 of these species were found in the seagrass beds and 10 species in the coral reef areas. The three most abundant species observed were the Holothuria scabra (29.2%), Bohadschia marmorata (21.2%), and Actinopyga echinites (17.6%) (n=1,969). Aside from some economically important sea cucumbers observed, we also noted rare species such as the Holothuria immobilis and Actinopyga capillata, which only have a few records in the Philippines. We are also the first to document Holothuria isuga in the Philippines, which is previously known only from five localities. The results offer opportunities for sea cucumber studies in the southern Philippines, especially on the biology and ecology of the rare and newly recorded species.

 

INTRODUCTION

The Philippines harbors a high diversity of sea cucumber species, which is threatened by overfishing and habitat loss (Choo 2008). Of the over 170 species identified in the country (Olavides et al. 2010), 25 to 41 of these – mostly from the members of the families Holothuriidae and Stichopodidae – have commercial value (Gamboa et al. 2004; Olavides et al. 2010; Jontila et al. 2014). Being a major exporter of trepang or dried sea cucumbers worldwide (Akamine 2005), the Philippines has been identified as a sea cucumber hotspot in Asia (Choo 2008). This demand may lead to overharvesting of sea cucumber resources, which may pose a great risk to their populations. The declining numbers of sea cucumbers in intertidal areas have serious consequences in the ecosystem such as habitat structure alteration, as they are the seas’ bioturbators and recyclers (Wolkenhauer et al. 2010). Moreover, sea cucumber species contain compounds that have medicinal properties that are of great importance . . . . . . read more

 

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