Overview

Comprehensive Description

Thyonella gemmata is a burrowing sea cucumber (holothuroid) found in the North Atlantic. Individuals reach sizes up to 15 cm and are generally gray, brown, olive, or black in color with varying degrees of mottling. T. gemmata’s body is roughly U-shaped, going from a thick central bulge to tapered ends. It is one of the more common shallow water sea cucumbers in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and consequently large numbers of this species have been known to wash ashore during storms.

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Distribution

Virginian, southside of Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras
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Source: World Register of Marine Species

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In Panama this species has been collected from Miria Island (USNM E 22487), San Blas Islands, Caribbean Sea, from within the coral debris shoal area.

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Source: The Echinoderms of Panama

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“New England to Florida, and along the Gulf of Mexico coastline to Texas, Cuba, and the Yucatan Peninsula. Around Florida, from the Indian River (eastcentral Florida), Biscayne Bay (Miller, previously unpublished), Marathon and Conch keys (Miller, previously unpublished), and the entire West Florida coast.
Depth: Low-tide mark to 6 m (20 ft), but specimens dredged near Daytona Beach were found at depths of 15-20 m (50-66 ft)" (Hendler, Miller, Pawson, Kier 264)

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Physical Description

Size

“This is a medium sized, burrowing species that can attain a length of 15 cm (6 in). In the field, freshly excavated individuals are usually distinctly U-shaped. The body tapers toward the bluntly rounded mouth and narrows more drastically toward the stiff anal cone. Because of the relatively thick body wall and a dense layer of ossicles, the skin is rigid and rough. Cylindrical tube feet are found along the midbody, and conical papillae near the ends. The tube feet are arranged in two distinct rows along the radii and scattered over the interradial areas, but they are largest and most numerous on the ventral surface. The mouth is surrounded by 10 stout, bushy tentacles, of which the ventral two are the smallest. Surrounding the anus are five calcareous plates, one at the end of each radius; anterior to each plate are one to five large, conical papillae.
The numerous body wall ossicles consist of buttons, baskets, rods, and perforated plates. The heavily knobbed buttons are irregular and variable in length. The tiny baskets are shallow and carry seven to nine marginal teeth. Large perforated plates and rods are found in the tube feet.
In both the anterior and posterior regions, there are numerous, large, perforated plates with a smooth to heavily knobbed surface. They are seldom found in the middle portion of the body, where buttons and baskets prevail. Unfortunately, the characteristic baskets, which are invaluable for unequivocal identification, may be completely lacking in some specimens, apparently resorbed with age.
Most individuals are a mottled gray, brown, or olive green, but some are nearly uniformly tan or black. The radial areas usually are lighter than the interradial areas, giving specimens a striped appearance. In live T. gemmata, the tips of the tube feet may appear red, because of the presence of hemoglobin containing cells in the water vascular system” (Heller, Miller, Pawson, Kier 263)

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Diagnostic Description

References and links

Pourtalès, L. F. (1851). On the Holothuriae of the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Proceedings American Association Advancement Science, Fifth Meeting, Washington. pp. 8-16.

Pawson, D. L., D. J. Vance, C. G. Messing, F. A. Solis-Marin, and C. L. Mah. (2009). Echinodermata of the Gulf of Mexico, Pp. 1177–1204 in Felder, D.L. and D.K. Camp (eds.), Gulf of Mexico–Origins, Waters, and Biota. Biodiversity. Texas A&M Press, College S.

Barcode of Life

GenBank

World Register of Marine Species

LSID urn:lsid:marinespecies.org:taxname:158534
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Source: The Echinoderms of Panama

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Synonymised taxa

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Source: The Echinoderms of Panama

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Ecology

Habitat

Depth range based on 22 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 2.25 - 64
  Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 24.110
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.457 - 3.012
  Salinity (PPS): 35.580 - 36.317
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.469 - 4.845
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.110 - 0.205
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 1.840

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 2.25 - 64

Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 24.110

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.457 - 3.012

Salinity (PPS): 35.580 - 36.317

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.469 - 4.845

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.110 - 0.205

Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 1.840
 
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Depth range based on 22 specimens in 1 taxon.
Water temperature and chemistry ranges based on 4 samples.

Environmental ranges
  Depth range (m): 2.25 - 64
  Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 24.110
  Nitrate (umol/L): 0.457 - 3.012
  Salinity (PPS): 35.580 - 36.317
  Oxygen (ml/l): 4.469 - 4.845
  Phosphate (umol/l): 0.110 - 0.205
  Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 1.840

Graphical representation

Depth range (m): 2.25 - 64

Temperature range (°C): 23.246 - 24.110

Nitrate (umol/L): 0.457 - 3.012

Salinity (PPS): 35.580 - 36.317

Oxygen (ml/l): 4.469 - 4.845

Phosphate (umol/l): 0.110 - 0.205

Silicate (umol/l): 0.868 - 1.840
 
Note: this information has not been validated. Check this *note*. Your feedback is most welcome.

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“Muddy or sandy areas, often associated with the seagrasses Halodule or Thalassia; rarely, beneath rocks" (Hendler, Miller, Pawson, Kier 263)

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

“This is one of the most common holothurians in shallow waters of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Occasionally, large numbers are found washed ashore after storms. Adults almost always burrow in mud or sand and rarely attach below rocks; juveniles have been found in algae collected near Conch Key, Florida (M. Byrne, personal communication). Manwell and Baker (1963) studied two populations of T. gemmata off the west coast of Florida that differed slightly in morphological and behavioral characteristics. Chemical analyses of the hemoglobin from their water vascular system and body cavity indicated that the populations of "thin" and "stout" individuals might be sibling species. Differences in the composition of hemoglobin in the coelomic and water vascular erythrocytes were also described (Manwell 1966). The structure and function of hemoglobin in this species has continued to attract the attention of physiologists (Terwilliger and Terwilliger 1988)” (Hendler, Miller, Pawson, Kier 264)

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Thyonella gemmata

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

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Genomic DNA is available from 3 specimens with morphological vouchers housed at British Antarctic Survey
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© Ocean Genome Legacy

Source: Ocean Genome Resource

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