Sea Cucumbers Excrete ‘5 Eiffel Towers Worth’ Of Poop Per Reef Each Year

We all want to give back in some way or another. Perhaps we work for a local charity or maybe we just do some recycling at home. Even sea cucumbers are in on giving back, but they do it in a strange way.

In the journal Coral Reefs, a study was published that showed just how much sea cucumbers poop every year. It is actually a specific type, black sea cucumbers (Holothuria atra), that were part of the study.

It took place in the Great Barrier Reef in a single segment and over 64,000 metric tons of poop were left behind annually!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

As you can imagine, researchers were not able to count every dropping that was left behind, but they did manage to spend 24 hours “spooning poo.” Those details were provided by The Guardian, thanks to an interview with the co-author of the study, Vincent Raoult.

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According to some estimates, as many as 3 million black sea cucumbers are on the coral reefs that border Heron Island. That island, located off Queensland, Australia, amounts to only a small portion of the great barrier reef.

Photo: flickr/Jeremy Johnson

It did take some calculations to figure out how much poop was being left behind on an annual basis. The first thing they did was to look at how much a single sea cucumber could poop every day. They did so by using a spoon and collecting the fecal pellets that were produced by the cucumber in a tank.

It seems as if there are 38 g of poop left behind by an average sea cucumber every day. When you multiply that by the number of sea cucumbers estimated to be in the area, you come up with the figure of 64,000 metric tons.

Photo: flickr / Ria Tan

You might think that so much excrement would be a bad thing, but more than likely, sea cucumbers are doing something good for the coral reef and the environment. The poop may release vital nutrients into the ecosystem, helping to fuel the coral skeletons and many organisms that call the coral reef home.

In addition, sea cucumber poop could help to slow down climate change by helping the coral reef to be resistant to that problem.

I guess we could all use a little more poop in our lives.

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