I've brought attention to some of the effects of global warming recently on asteroids and others have written about ophiuroids but have not written much about the effects of pollution on echinoderms...
by Erin R. Graham (Saint Joseph's University) and Joseph T. Thompson (Franklin & Marshall College) in the 2009 Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology-"Deposit-and suspension-feeding sea cucumbers (Echinodermata) ingest plastic fragments".
The effects of this:
The authors of the study studied four subject species: Holothuria fieldana, H. grisea, Cucumaria frondosa and Thyonella gemmata in the lab and compared these results with data from three different field sites along the Atlantic coast.
They used these to study the experimental feeding rates/effects of small plastic bits as they were ingested by sea cucumbers, which are widely ecologically important deposit feeders.
The feeding component basically involved artificially seeding an artificial aquarium with plastic shavings and many different kinds of plastic bits-thread, rods, bits, etc.
They discovered that sea cucumbers were preferentially ingesting between 2 and 20 fold MORE plastic fragments per individual (per 4 hour interval) then was expected (I gather they assume "expected"= random).
Remarkably, one species Cucumaria frondosa ingested 73 times more plastic ribbons then expected!
They basically conclude that this was a preference of the individual species. The shapes and sizes were variable factors-but ultimately they strongly influenced the sea cucumbers' predisposition to feeding.
This becomes important in just a moment....
Field Studies & Environmental Impacts
- Sea cucumbers preferentially PREFER to ingest plastic bits.
- Plastic bits are COMMON in sediment (where sea cucumbers live).
- Plastic bits can impart toxic PCBs which are ingested in great quantities by sea cucumbers.