By Aliki Kraterou
A diver was left speechless after discovering an extremely rare albino sea cucumber – which he initially mistook for a piece of PLASTIC.
Mihalis Vagousis, 47, spotted the unusual creature while scuba diving at Avdira beach, in Xanthi, Greece.
Sea cucumbers – known as horholothurian – play a very important role in the cleaning of the oceans’ water and while the common brown ones are found worldwide, albino varieties are extremely rare.
Military worker Mihalis initially photographed the sea cucumber without realising what it is after mistaking it for a piece of plastic but said its strange shape was what made him go back for another look.
He said: “When I first saw it, I thought it might have been some plastic rubbish so I kept exploring.
“But at the back of my mind I was thinking it could have been something else as its shape was unusual, so I decided to go back and have another look.
“When I realised what it was, I was left speechless.
“Luckily I had my camera with me and was able to capture it.
“I asked around local fishermen but no one had ever seen anything like it.”
Dad-of-two Mihalis originally took the pictures three years ago but only sent photos of the 10-inch long aquatic creature to marine biologists earlier this month to determine how rare it was.
He was stunned when the experts told him his findings were ‘unbelievable’ and the ‘healthy’ animal’s chances of existing were almost none.
Mihalis added: “The experts told me it was unbelievable, and they had never seen anything like it.
“They came into the conclusion that it definitely is a white sea cucumber, and the chances such a thing would exist are close to zero.
“They also said that since no one has ever reported a similar species, it is unique – this is the only albino sea cucumber ever reported in the Mediterranean.
“I was told it is extremely rare and I was very lucky to see it with my own eyes.
“That day was the best dive I have had in my 30 years of experience – when I first spotted it, I couldn’t have imagined how rare it would be.”