Gaya sea cucumbers project

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It’s my life: Habitat distribution of sea cucumbers

Sea cucumbers of the genus Holothuria take up residence in tropical coral reefs of varying levels of coral cover. Within one reef, individual cucumbers can be found in varying proportions of substrates such as sand, stone, living, and dead coral. Sea cucumbers feed on detritus found on the ocean floor, performing the vital function of decomposition. We explored whether the microhabitat of a cucumber differs based on varying level of cover of coral in the macrohabitat. As global climate change alters coral reef ecology, changes in reef structure will affect echinoderm populations. We hypothesized that cucumbers reside in more covered microhabitats within more coral-filled macrohabitats. Cucumbers were located in the Padang Point and Sapi reefs and assessed for substrate and percentage of perimeter adjacent to protrusions from the reef floor. Percentage of cucumber perimeter covered by rocks, etc. had the same mean in both locations. A wilcoxon test on percentage cover relative to sampling location did not indicate a significant difference(p = 0.1223). This indicates that differences in macrohabitat does not cause as significant a change as was expected in cucumber behaviour in finding cover. Continued examination of distribution of sea cucumbers across a full range of depths and soil variance could better explain cucumbers’ place in reef communities.