Synaptula lamperti

Synaptula lamperti is a species of sea cucumber belonging to the family Synaptidae within the phylum Echinodermata, located on coral reefs within the Indo-Pacific region. The echinoderms are marine invertebrates and they include the sea urchins, sea cucumbers, and starfish. They’re radially symmetric and have a water vascular system that is driven by hydrostatic pressure, making them able to move around via numerous suckers known as tube feet. Sea cucumbers are typically leathery, gherkin-shaped animals with a collection of short tentacles at one end. They reside on the bottom of the sea.

This species has an elongated, opaque body including several dark colored longitudinal stripes. They are no tube feet on the body but a few have been modified into tuft of pinnate feeding tentacles which are always in motion. The skeletal system is made up of small calcareous plates which are embedded in the cuticle. These ossicles consist of little hooks that stick out through the skin and make the animal seem sticky. It moves around quickly and efficiently utilizing the hooks at one end of the body for adhesion while the muscular contractions and hydrostatic pressure changes alter the position of the other end.

It is located in the Western Pacific including the coasts of Indonesia, Micronesia, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

It’s very common on coral reefs, both on the exposed slopes and the inner slopes. It’s a detrivore that specifically feeds on or around living sponges of the lanthella basta species. It seems to require the nutrients offered by this particular sponge to thrive, as it ingests microscopic organic particles such as diatoms and also substances exuded from the surface of its host sponge. It feeds at night only, and the food is processed very quickly, with a passage time through the digestive tract of less than 60 minutes.

The majority of this species are either male or female, but hermaphrodites occur occasionally and self-fertilization may take place. The closely related species Synaptula hydriformis has been studied in detail and its fertilized eggs are retained in the coelom where the juvenile individuals develop in a safe and protected environment. If it becomes damaged, both anterior and posterior portions can regenerate into new individuals.

Image Caption: The striped body and feeding tentacles of Lampert’s Sea Cucumber (Synaptula lamperti). Credit: Richard Ling/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.0)