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Worms and Sea Cucumbers – Reef Life of the Andaman – Part 23

Worms and Sea Cucumbers – Reef Life of the Andaman – Part 23


First we look at a feather duster worm, Sabellastarte sp., at Shark Cave in the Burma’s Mergui Archipelago, and a hard tube coco worm, Protula bispiralis, at Richelieu Rock, north of the Similan Islands in Thailand. These polychate worms are rooted statically to the reef and feed by filtering plankton from the water with their tentacles and passing it into the central mouth.

Colorful Christmas tree worms, Spirobranchus giganteus, are common at many dive sites throughout the Andaman Sea. They embed themselves into porous stony corals and are highly sensitive to disturbances. At the slightest sign of danger, the worm retracts into the coral and seals the opening.

Also seen in the Mergui Archipelago, the large burrowing sea cucumber, Neothyonidium magnum, a type of Echinoderm, is another filter feeder. It roots itself into the substrate and holds its outer tentacles in the current. When it has captured sufficient plankton the tentacles reach down toward the centre, allowing the smaller inner tentacles to scoop the food into the mouth.

The Graeffe’s sea cucumber, Pearsonothuria graeffei, is common at shallow depths in the Andaman Sea, for example at dive sites around Racha Yai. Its mouth contains 25 adhesive black tentacles which it uses to walk over the reef and to pick up food from the substrate.

The mouth of the amberfish sea cucumber, Thelenota anax, contains 18 tentacles and is underneath the body. After digesting what it can from the material it has ingested from the seabed, the waste products are expelled at the anus. The sea cucumber also breathes through the anus by sucking water in and out.

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