The breeding pattern and variations in timing and reproductive output of the commercial sea cucumber Holothuria fuscogilva in Kenya
Abstract—The sea cucumber Holothuria fuscogilva is currently one of the most commercially valuable species of sea cucumber worldwide. This study investigated reproduction of this species in order to characterize the reproductive pattern and evaluate the relationship with temperature, light and lunar periodicity. Individuals were collected monthly, between 1998 and 2007, at Shimoni, Kenya and processed using standard gonad index methods and macroscopic and microscopic observations of the gonads.
Gametogenesis commenced from May and spawning occurred from December to April of each year and there was close synchrony between the sexes, contrary to the hypothesis that breeding patterns on the equator will be continuous and less synchronized between sexes. Peak spawning occurred during the last quarter of the moon. The gonad index of individuals correlated significantly with gonad tubule length and fecundity indicating that it was a good predictor of sexual maturity and reproductive output. The gonad index showed a significant correlation with temperature but not light, suggesting that temperature may play a role in controlling reproduction. The life history strategy of this sea cucumber included a higher energetic investment in the reproductive output of females and spawning at a time favorable for larval development. There was a shift in sex ratio from unity to significantly more males over the sampling period, as well as a significant reduction in mean sizes (body wall weight) and reproductive output (gonad index) suggesting that the reproductive success of this species was potentially negatively affected by fishing.
Keywords: seasonality, Indian Ocean, Kenya, fecundity, sexual synchrony,
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