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Bioactivity as an Options Value of Sea Cucumbers in the Egyptian Red Sea

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The utility of a species can be divided into its direct, indirect, and options values. In the marine environment, direct consumptive values predominate and often lead to overexploitation at the expense of significant options values derived through bioprospecting for natural products. We surveyed the waters of the Egyptian Red Sea coast (Gulf of Aqaba [north] and the Red Sea [south]) for species of sea cucumbers and analyzed extracts from species for a range of bioactivities with potential biomedical applications. All habitat types were surveyed within these regions. We found 22 species of sea cucumber of which two, Holothuria fuscogilva and Holothuria flavomaculata, were recorded in Egypt for the first time. Although none of the species identified were unique to the Gulf of Aqaba, 10 species were only found in the Red Sea sector. Bioassay results showed that although no species had antibacterial activity, most extracts exhibited activity against Candida and Leishmania but were most active against a LoVo mammalian carcinoma cell line. Our most significant finding was the intraspecific variation in bioactivity in individuals collected from different habitat types and sectors of the coast. This variation may reflect the effect of environment on secondary metabolite production or may indicate significant genetic diversity between populations within a species. Our results indicate a potentially significant options value to sea cucumbers through bioprospecting. Given the importance of economic development in countries such as Egypt and the perceived low conservation value of invertebrates such as sea cucumbers, the linking of these factors to conservation is vital for the maintenance and sustainable exploitation of these animals.
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Keywords: bioactive compounds; compuestos bioactivos; distibución; distribution; options value; pepino de mar; sea cucumber; valor de opción

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Life Sciences, University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad & Tobago, Email: [email protected] 2: Department of Marine Sciences, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt 3: Department of Pharmacology, Suez Canal University, Ismailia, Egypt 4: Medway School of Pharmacy, The Universities of Kent and Greenwich at Medway, Central Avenue, Chatham Maratime, Kent ME4 4TB, United Kingdom

Publication date: February 1, 2010

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