Sometimes, it’s just your lucky day.
On Saturday, a Qingdao restaurant owner approached a journalist with some truly incredible news. “I opened this restaurant 15 years ago, I’ve bought hundreds of thousands of sea cucumbers, this is the first time I’ve seen a white one,” the man surnamed Li told the Qingdao News reporter.
The journalist accompanied Li back to the restaurant, and sure enough, laying in a bin full of regularly-colored sea cucumbers, there was a white one, about 18 cm in length. Li said that he had just bought the creature earlier that day from a local fisherman, explaining that a white sea cucumber is only something that a fisherman sees once every three to four years.
Which makes sense because it is estimated that if you had a giant tank full of 200,000 sea cucumbers, only one of them would be white, making albino sea cucumbers exceedingly rare, and therefore, incredibly valuable, worth more than their weight in gold. Last year in Jinan, five of them were sold for 160,000 yuan.
The albino sea cucumber is uncommon not only because the genetic variation itself is rare, but also because it isn’t equipped to survive in its habitat with no camouflage to hide it from predators. While its color may be detrimental to its own survival, some people believe that the creature has miraculous healing powers, and can even cure cancer. Others believe that it brings good luck, in February, visitors flocked to see an albino sea cucumber at an aquarium in Fukuoka, Japan.
As you might expect, scientists have tried to create these rare critters via genetic modification. Last year, SCMP reported on a group of Chinese researchers in Qingdao who managed to obtain over 150 million baby white sea cucumber by modifying the gene responsible for albinism.
Li is doing his part to further understanding on this strange creature, he says he plans to donate it to a marine research institute.
[Images via NetEase]