Eclair-like sea cucumbers found in waters near Okinawa, but “the taste is far from the sweet”

Eclair-like sea cucumbers found in waters near Okinawa, but

Eclair sea cucumber (back) and eclair (provided by Daisuke Ueno, Fellow of the Department of Science of Ryukyu University)


September 10, 2011 Ryukyu Shimpo

Daisuke Ueno, a fellow of the Department of Science of University of the Ryukyu who specializes in Aquarium parasitology, and his research group, recently found a sea cucumber that resembles the western confectionery éclair at several locations in the waters around Okinawa Island. It is the first time that this type of sea cucumber has been discovered in the northern hemisphere. Ueno and his group named it (in Japanese) the “Eclair sea cucumber” and reported it in the Journal of the Okinawa Biological Society published in August. “Its taste has none of the sweetness of an éclair. It is more a mixture of a bitter taste and astringency,” said Ueno after sampling one.

   Daisuke Ueno

Eclair sea cucumbers have been found in the waters off Maeda Cape, Zanpa Cape, Manzamo and Sesokojima where they enjoy living in sand at a depth of more than 35 meters on the outer edge of reefs and in environments covered in algae. They have relatively large bodies, reaching a length of 40-50 centimeters, with black spots on a yellow back and a black vertical pattern on its belly.

The same type of sea cucumber was announced as a new species collected in 2005 and 2007 in Australia. Ueno found his examples of the species in 2000 when out diving. However, he had not gone as far as identifying it.

He said, “These sea cucumbers usually prefer to live at a depth at which divers cannot stay for a long time, and there are only a few experts in the world capable of classifying sea cucumbers. For these reasons, its discovery and naming took time.” Ueno stated, “Its discovery suggests that we have a favorable environment in which to observe many unknown organisms, at places relatively easily accessed by scuba divers.”

(English Translation by T&CT, Mark Ealey)

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