Our Wikipedia page
Marine Wildlife of Baa Atoll, Maldives

Our marine life inventory is progressing very well, and aims to be a definitive guide to the sea creatures found here in Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (and representative of the Maldives as a whole). We now have details and photographs of more than 450 species catalogued, including some that have not been officially observed in the region, such as the moray eel (Gymnothorax rueppelliae) and the captain parrotfish (Chlorurus enneacanthus).

Our marine biologists aim to photograph and positively identify all the marine life of Baa Atoll, and then add the details and photographs into the Wikipedia catalogue – found here in both English and French language versions.

We have chosen Wikipedia to house our online collection because it is well-known, offers easy uploading/editing (with detailed change logs), and can even be peer-reviewed by international scientists. This way, people from all over the world will be able to have a glimpse of the amazing underwater life here in Baa Atoll, without ever leaving their armchair!

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Wikipedia Page - Marine Wildlife of Baa Atoll

Wikipedia Page – Marine Wildlife of Baa Atoll

Wikipedia - Baa Atoll Maldives - turtle and clownfish

Just one of the 100s of photos on our Wikipedia page, cataloguing the rich marine biodiversity of Baa Atoll, Maldives

Frédéric Ducarme is a PhD student and lecturer at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, specialising in ecology and tropical marine biology. He worked with us from July to September as a volunteer research intern, with a principal interest in Echinoderms.
Echinoderms are a phylum classification of 7,000 species that includes starfish, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Whilst most commonly found on reefs, the various species are distributed across the sea floor at every depth throughout the oceans of the world.

Research Project – Echinoderms in Baa Atoll, Maldives

Exciting news! We may have discovered a brand new species of sea cucumber right here at Landaa Giraavaru, thanks to Frédéric Ducarme’s research project on indigenous Echinoderms.

During a snorkelling trip, our marine biologists spotted and photographed an unusual sea cucumber, with a greenish-brown body and covered with strange black spots. Photographic confirmation from renowned Holothurian experts, Professors Chantal Conand and Gustav Paulay, confirmed it as a probable new and undescribed species. And so on 21 August we successfully retrieved one of the live sea cucumbers, and kept it for several days in our ‘touch tank’ for examination and further photographs. It proved to be quite a VIP attraction!

The mystery sea cucumber might be a new species of the genus Stichopus or Isostichopus, or it could also be a whole new genus. (However, it might be a very strange form of a known species, or a species “forgotten by science”.) Microscopic analysis of the skeleton and DNA assay is necessary for determining the exact species, and these tasks can only be performed in a specialised lab. And so, after following the correct authorisation and export procedures, the animal was sent to the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, to join a queue of undescribed animal specimens that might be new to science!

UPDATE : ‘Our’ sea cucumber is presently part of the Museum collection (ID MNHN-IE-2013-6056), and will soon be analysed by marine biology experts.

Stichopus on the reef

The mystery sea cucumber on the reef

Stichopus in the touch-pool

The mystery sea cucumber in our touch-pool

Unknown Holothurian – Diagnostic Features
Size: Length at rest about 45cm; can retract to less than 20cm when touched.
Beige in colour, with thick and irregular greenish-brown dots. The dorsal surface is covered with brownish-black blunt papillae, conical when at rest (with a tiny whitish tip), and retracted in hard, rough warts when touched. They come in many sizes (0.5-3cm diameter), are irregularly scattered and can be confluent. They are long and extended on the ventral margin at night, looking like caterpillar feet. The ventral surface is clearer, marked by three broad brownish ambulacral lines, bearing thin (but strong) brownish podia.

The body is very firm with symmetric, rounded anterior and posterior ends. Body shape is sub-cylindrical, arched dorsally and flattened ventrally, and can retract a lot when manipulated. The papillae at the lower lateral margins are longer, robust and conical shaped. The mouth is ventral with short whitish peltate tentacles, hardly visible due to a skirt- like extension of the skin around them that hides the process of feeding. The anus is terminal, rather small and hard, sub quadrangular, without anal teeth. This species did not eject cuvierian tubules when rubbed.