Sheltering behaviour of the sea cucumber Holothuria arguinensis in the Ria Formosa (Portugal)

Sea cucumbers are being harvested and cultured worldwide. To ensure that this is done sustainably, more information on the ecology and behaviour of these animals is needed. One of the target species is Holothuria arguinensis, which is distributed along the NE Atlantic Ocean (from Peniche to the Canary islands) and has recently started colonising the Mediterranean Sea. Observations have been made of this sea cucumber being covered by sea grasses or macro algae during low tide. The behaviour of the irradiance avoidance of H. arguinensis will be studied in the Ria Formosa, Portugal. The main objectives of this MSc Thesis are: 1) to establish the percentage of sea cucumber body covered or not covered by sea grass and/or seaweed during exposure to air at low tides; 2) identify variables that might influence this behaviour (H. arguinensis' morphotype, water and air temperature, irradiance); 3) assess state of health, mainly skin condition with and without coverage protection and 4) finally set up an experiment checking their preferred type of coverage. Sampling sessions will be undertaken by volunteers and by the Msc student during visual census transects (100m2/transect) from July 2015 until May 2016. Data will be collected in the form of images taken with a multisensor capable of providing images in different frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum. This data will be analysed using R image analysis software. The results of this research could be applied to H. arguinensis aquaculture and conservation. Knowing the response of these animals to environmental conditions like irradiance, may help us to create an optimal environment for breeding them or for selecting individuals best adapted to the current environment.

Promotor(s) & Supervisor: Dr. Mercedes Wanguemert
Thesis Institute: Center of Marine Science (CCMAR)

ISCED Categories

The highlighted icons, represent the fields of education (in compliance with ISCED Classification) engaged during this course/programme.

0511 - Biology", "0521 - Ecology