Beachgoer's 'squishy' discovery 'very important' for Great Barrier Reef

The man had 'no idea' what his discovery was and its importance to Australia's famous coral reef.

Another day, another interesting beach find in Australia.

The latest discovery to stop a beachgoer in their tracks comes from Mackay on the Queensland coast when a confused local stumbled upon the animal at Blacks Beach on Saturday.

"I had no idea [what it was]," he told Yahoo News Australia. "But it was squishy."

The 'squishy' discovery can be seen on the sand with silver and red patterns on its shell.
The 'squishy' discovery was spotted on Blacks Beach in Mackay on Saturday. Source: Facebook

The marine creature could easily be mistaken for a painted stone, with its red and silver patterned shell shimmering in the sunshine as it lay stuck in the sand.

The man shared the picture to his friend, who uploaded the image online and asked a group of marine enthusiasts if they could identify what it was. "Any ideas?" she asked.

Marine creature 'important' for coral growth

The marine creature found on the beach was identified as a 'sea apple' which is a type of filter-feeding sea cucumber, known as the "garbage men" of the Great Barrier Reef.

"They clean the water and eat bits and pieces from the water current... less sedimentation is very important for coral growth," Principal consultant of Seacucumber Consultancy, Dr Beni Azari, told Yahoo News Australia.

The sea apple can be seen underwater, vibrant at the bottom of the ocean floor.
Sea apples are filter feeders and clean the water which is 'very important' for coral growth. Source: Reef Builders

Sea cucumbers ingest sand in order to feed on organisms hiding in it, with the sand granules passing through their bodies in this filtering process before returning to the ocean floor.

The animals also crush sand and shells which have a positive impact for the ecosystem, with their vivid colours blending in well with the coral.

"They take in a lot of water, and swell like a ball and move with water currents," Dr Azari explained, sharing that the pictured sea apple may have found itself washed ashore this way.

Animal one of '1,700 species of sea cucumber', expert says

Dr Azar explained there are more than 1,700 species of sea cucumber but only a small number are "commercially valuable".

"Only four per cent are commercially valuable in terms of being seafood and pharmaceuticals ... Some species, like the sea apple, are used in the aquarium trade."

Due to their "beautiful" colourations, sea apples are often purchased for aquariums to help filter the tanks while also being aesthetically pleasing for visitors.

Two different types of sea cucumbers can be seen prepared on a dish for eating.
Some species of sea cucumber are considered a delicacy in Asian cultures and are considered highly nutritious. Source: Marine Stewardship Council and Wikipedia

Some species of sea cucumber are eaten in different cultures, considered to be a delicacy in many Asian cuisines and are "incredibly nutritious", according to Healthline.

"In China they eat something which is called beche-de-mer which is a different species of sea cucumber," University of Sunshine Coast Principle Research Officer, Dr Cathy Hair, told Yahoo. "They catch them before boiling, drying and rehydrating them before being used in stews and stir fry recipes."

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