Nature 27, 433-433 (08 March 1883) | doi:10.1038/027433a0

The Supposed Coral-eating Habits of Holothurians



In glancing through my back numbers of NATURE my attention has been drawn to a letter on the above subject by Mr. H. B. Guppy, published in the issue dated November 2, 1882. Quoting the late Mr. Charles Darwin’s famous work on “Coral Reefs,” where it is stated at p. 14, on the authority of Dr. J. Allan, that Holothuriæ subsist on living corals, he recounts the results of his investigations made on the reefs of Santa Anna and Cristoral, with the object of putting such statement to the test. As the upshot of his experiences he writes that he has by no means satisfied himself that Holothuriæ do subsist on living coral. In no instance did he meet with a single individual browsing on the patches of living zoophytes, the two species observed being indeed found living only in the plots of detritus or dead coral matter that flanked the growing masses. Mr. Guppy gives an approximate estimate of the amount of coral sand daily voided by an individual Holothurian, but adduces no evidence as to the manner in which such hard matter is taken into its body. This phenomenon indeed he apparently did not witness; nor, so far as I am able to ascertain, has any other investigator brought forward any positive testimony in this direction.