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Revista Peruana de Biología
ISSN 1727-9933 versión on-line


Rev. peru biol. v.19 n.1 Lima abr. 2012

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First record of the swimming sea cucumber Enypniastes eximia Théel, 1882 (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in Peruvian waters

Primer registro del pepino de mar nadador Enypniastes eximia Theel, 1882 (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) en aguas peruanas


Francisco Alonso Solís-Marín1, Yuri Hooker2 and Alfredo Laguarda-Figueras1

1 Laboratorio de Sistemática y Ecología de Equinodermos, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología (ICML), Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Apdo. Post. 70-305, México, D. F. 04510, México. E-mail Francisco A. Solís-Marín:
2 Laboratorio de Biología Marina, Departamento de Ciencias Biológicas y Fisiológicas, Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia. Av. Honorio Delgado 430, Urb. Ingeniería, S.M.P. Lima, Perú.



Enypniastes eximia Théel, 1882 (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) a swimming sea cucumber is reported for the first time from Peru. The species was collected in the Continental rise (563-1,201 m) off Trujillo Department. Reference material has been deposited in the Coleccion Cientifica del Instituto del Mar del Peru (IMARPE), Lima, Peru.

Keywords: First record, biodiversity, Southeast Pacific.



Se registra por primera vez para el Perú la especie pelágica de pepino de mar Enypniastes eximia Théel, 1882 (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea). La especie fue recolectada en el talud continental (563-1,201 m) frente al departamento de Trujillo. Material de referencia se encuentra depositado en la Colección Científica del Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE), Lima, Perú.

Palabras clave: Primer Registro, biodiversidad, Pacífico Sudeste.



Enypniastes eximia Théel, 1882 (Family Pelagothuridae Ludwig, 1894) is a benthopelagic, cosmopolitan swimming sea cucumber (Miller and Pawson, 1990; Borrero et al., 2003) found at depths between 461 and 5,689 m. This is the first time that E. eximia is found in Peruvian waters.

In 1999 Bluhm and Gebruk reported its existence in the "Peruvian Basin" (a circular area of 10.8 km2, centered at 7°4.4’ S and 88°27.6’ W), using photographs of a deep-sea area far away from the Peruvian continental shelf; about 450 nautical miles from the coast (not territorial Peruvian waters).

Specimens were found off Trujillo Department (~7°58.93’S, 80°35.10’W). Organisms were collected using a Bacalao Trawl 586/200 on board of the R/V SHINKAI MARU. Reference material was deposited the Scientific Collection of the Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE).


Phylum Echinodermata Klein, 1734 (ex Bruguière, 1789)

Order Elasipodida Théel, 1882

Suborder Psychropotina Hansen, 1975

Family Pelagothuridae Ludwig, 1894

Genus Enypniastes Théel, 1882

Enypniastes eximia Théel, 1882

(Figures 1, Table 1)





Enypniastes eximia.- Pawson, 1965: 19, 27; Miller & Pawson, 1990: 10-11, figs. 1c,d, 4; Borrero et al., 2003: 76, fig. 3C.

Material examined: 450 specimens of three localities (Table 1). IMARPE 03-000475, 1 specimen, August 6th, 1999, R/V SHINKAI MARU, Bacalao Trawl 586/200, off Trujillo, between 7°58.93’ S, 80°35.10’ W and 7°57.52’ S, 80°35.67’ W, 1,201 m, coll. Y. Hooker; 218 specimens, August 6th, 1999, R/V SHINKAI MARU, Bacalao Trawl 586/200, off Trujillo, between 7°58.93’ S, 80°35.10’ W and 7°57.52’ S, 80°35.67’ W, 1,201 m, coll. Y. Hooker; 58 specimens, August 7th, 1999, R/V SHINKAI MARU, Bacalao Trawl 586/200, off Trujillo, between 8°05.65’ S, 80°32.91’ W and 8°04.03’ S, 80°33.49’ W, 1,163 m, coll. Y. Hooker; 173 specimens, August 7th, 1999, R/V SHINKAI MARU, Bacalao Trawl 586/200, off Trujillo, between 6°39.69’ S, 81°03.35’ W and 6°38.53’ S, 81°04.69’ W, 563 m, coll. Y. Hooker. Capture total weight 180.99 kg.

Description: This species has a distinctive barrel-shaped body and a large anterior webbed veil incorporating up to 12 conical podia (Fig. 1A). There are two rectangular postero lateral veils composed of 10-15 webbed podia. No ossicles are found in the body wall or any other part of the external or internal structures. Enypniastes eximia is transparent; internal structures, especially the sediment-filled coiled intestine, are readily visible through the body wall. Individuals examined during this study ranged from 11 to 25 cm in length.

Color: Reddish to dark purple. The coloration of the integument varies with body size; small individuals are pale pink and large adults are dark brown-red to crimson (Miller and Pawson, 1990).

Distribution: Enypniastes eximia is cosmopolitan at depths of 461-5,689 m (Miller and Pawson, 1990; Borrero et al., 2003). Swimming specimens observed from submersibles or in seafloor photographs have always been found within a few meters of the seabed (Bluhm and Gebruk, 1999). Billett et al. (1985) have collected juvenile specimens as much as 3,000 m above the seabed, and the same species has been reported (as Pelagothuria bouvieri) at the surface (Hérouard, 1923).

Remarks: Enypniastes eximia, employs a ‘‘burglar alarm’’ strategy of predator deterrence. After feeding on benthic sediments it lifts off the bottom and spends most of its time up in the water column. Light production is triggered mechanically and is produced by hundreds of granular bodies within its gelatinous integument. The skin of E. eximia is very fragile and strong physical contact causes the skin to be sloughed off in a glowing cloud. The deciduous skin is also sticky and it readily adheres to most surfaces. Physical contact elicits light production that can ‘‘paint’’ a predator with patches of the glowing skin, thus revealing the presence of the attacker to its own visually cued predators (Robison, 1992).


To the Instituto del Mar del Perú (IMARPE) and Albertina Kameya Kameya (Unidad de Investigaciones en Biodiversidad) to allow us reviewing and work on their scientific collection. To Alicia Duran Gonzalez (ICML, UNAM) for her technical support.


Literature cited

Billett D.S.M., B. Hansen & Q.J. Huggett. 1985. Pelagic Holothurioidea of the Northeast Atlantic. In B.F. Keegan and B.D.S. O'Connor (Eds.) Echinodermata: proceedings of the 5th international echinoderm conference galway 24-29 september, 1984. pp. 399-411. Balkema Press, Rotterdam.

Bluhm H. & A. Gebruk. 1999. Holothuroidea (Echinodermata) of the Peru Basin- Ecological and Taxonomic Remarks based on underwater images. P.S.Z.N. Marine Ecology 20 (2): 167-195.

Borrero-Pérez G. H., M. Benavides-Serrato, D.O. Solano & G.R. Navas. 2003. Holothuroideos (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) recolectados en el Talud Continental superior del Caribe Colombiano. Boletín del Instituto Oceanográfico de Venezuela. Univ. de Oriente, 42: 65-85.

Hansen B. & F. J. Madsen. 1956. On two bathypelagic holothurians from the South China Sea. Scientific Results of the Danish Deep-sea Expedition round the world 1950-52. Galathea Report 2: 55-59.

Hérouard E. 1923. Holothuries provenant des campagnes des yachts Princesse-Alice et Hirondelle II (1898-1915). Résultats Campagnes Scientifiques Prince-Albert I, 66:1-163.

Miller J.E. & D.L. Pawson. 1990. Swimming sea cucumbers (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea): A survey, with analysis of swimming behavior in four bathyal species. Smithsonian Contributions to the Marine Sciences, (35): 1-18.

Pawson D. L. 1965. The bathyal holothurians of the New Zealand Region. Zoology Publications from Victoria University of Wellington (39): 1-33.

Robison B.H. 1992. Bioluminescence in the benthopelagic holothurian Enypniastes eximia. J. Mar. Biol. Assoc. UK 72:463–472.

Théel, H. 1882. Report on the Holothuroidea, dredged by H.M.S. Challenger during the year 1873-1876, Zoology 4(3): 1-176.


Presentado: 26/03/2012
Aceptado: 28/07/2012
Publicado online: 01/10/2012



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