Sea Cucumbers

Learn about the sea cucumber, its habitat, diet and more.

Habitat

A Sea Cucumber normally lives in tide pool floors, shallow waters, muddy and sandy places. Did you know that some Sea Cucumbers live in polluted water? A Sea Cucumber normally lives in extreme low tide to 90m sub-tidal depths.

Some Sea Cucumbers are kept as pets in reef aquariums but often feared of killing other creatures in the aquarium because of the Sea Cucumbers defense mechanism.

Classification

The Sea Cucumber is an Echinoderm (Phylum Echinodermata) and is also an Invertebrate. Sea Cucumbers belong to the family “Holothuroidea”. There are approximately 1,150 described species of Sea Cucumber of which most are marine and distributed worldwide. Genus Pseudocolochirus are among the most poisonous Sea Cucumbers in the World. Sea Cucumbers are Macro-benthos along with Clams, Oysters and Starfish.

If a creature is a Macro-benthos it means that it lives on the ocean floor and are larger than one millimeter. The Giant Red or California Sea Cucumber is the largest member of the family Holothuroidea, and a relative of Sea Urchins, Sand Dollars, Starfish, Brittle Stars, and other Echinoderms. Three common Sea Cucumbers are the Warty Sea Cucumber, the California Sea Cucumber, and the White Star Sea Cucumber. Sea Cucumbers belong to the kingdom of Animalia (or the kingdom of animals.)

Description

Sea Cucumbers have small suction tubes covering most of its body to help them move. Most Sea Cucumbers are colored brown and black but there are others that are different colors like white, orange and green. Sea Cucumbers have a special ability to contract their muscles, which allows them to shoot out water that they absorb and some of them can even shoot out their insides and grow them back as a defense mechanism.

Sea Cucumbers do understandably look like Cucumbers and that’s how their name originates. Sea Cucumbers extract oxygen from water in a pair of lungs that branch off the cloaca just inside the anus, so that they breathe by drawing water in through the anus and then expelling it. Sea Cucumbers do not have arms or legs. Some tropical species have thick, muscular body walls, whereas many deep-sea forms are gelatinous and transparent.

Sea Cucumbers, with the exception of members of Elasipodida and Apodida, have respiratory trees used in gas exchange. These structures are paired, heavily branched tubes inside the body cavity that attach to the rectum. These structures allow a type of breathing called cloacal breathing also present in an unrelated group, the Echiuran Worms. These nocturnal animals have a life span of about 5-10 years.

Diet

Sea Cucumbers eat the tiny scrap particles that are usually abundant in the environments that they inhabit. Sea Cucumbers have two different types of feeding. One of these is “direct deposit feeding.” In this feeding method, Sea Cucumbers literally wipe their tentacles over the sediments to pick up tiny particles that settle there from the water above. The other mode of feeding is the suspension feeding. Suspension feeding Sea Cucumbers have fine buccal tentacles that are used to pick particles out of the water column during feeding.

Reproduction

Sea Cucumbers tend to have separate sexes and spawning behaviour tends to be seasonal. During spawning, Sea Cucumbers travel to the top of reef structures and release their gametes into the surrounding currents. A range of developmental modes is seen among Sea Cucumbers. Development via feeding larvae (Planktotrophy) or non-feeding larvae (Lecithotrophy) occurs in a large number of species. In others, embryos and larvae may be brooded by the female. The feeding larva of Sea Cucumbers (when present) is very distinctive and is called an “Auricularia” larva. It swims for about 10-40 days before settling on the bottom and develops into a baby Sea Cucumber.

Did You Know?

There is a little fish that lives in the back end of Sea Cucumbers? In return for being a cleaner, the fish gets a place to live and something to eat.

Indigenous Australians of the North-West of Australia used to export Sea Cucumbers to the Chinese who still is a large importer of Sea Cucumbers? Sea Cucumbers became our first export supply.

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13 Responses to “Sea Cucumbers”
  1. Angie Rakai-Bower Says...

    On January 29, 2008 at 8:06 pm

    Hi MAT, I have enjoyed your article , and would like to ask can sea cucumbers be farmed and if so how is it done.
    my reason is that a seaweed project in my village as been destroyed by a hurricane. and my extended families have been diving for sea cucumbersa nd selling to the chinese for years, and would certainly take up a challenge to farm sea cucumbers to supplement there megre income and living standard.. Cheers and good luck.. Angie > brownsea@ihug.co.nz <


  2. Mat Says...

    On February 3, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Hey Angie Rakai-Bower,

    I am not sure if it is possible, though I guess you could give it a shot if you can meet the main requirements. (e.g. – food)

    You could read this article on keeping Sea Cucumbers in a tank that may help and give you a fair idea on what you are looking at.

    http://petcare.suite101.com/article.cfm/sea_cucumbers_for_the_marine_tank

    Or you could find some information by typing something on a search engin, like Google. I will continue to search for information reagrding your request, and if I find anything, I will send you an email.

    Thanks for the comment, I hope I have helped and good luck on the project. I hope your village recovers from the hurricane.

    Good luck,

    Mat Bateman


  3. lisa Says...

    On May 14, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    How many babies can a sea cucumber have in a lifetime?

    I need to know for a report.

    Thanks,
    Lisa


  4. peron Says...

    On October 24, 2008 at 2:51 pm

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  5. Dinky Says...

    On November 19, 2008 at 5:57 am

    i could have gotten everthing i needed from this website! but unfortunately i found this website after i finshed me report! anyways, this is a great site and if i ever do marine biology, ill come to this website. First!

    Thx, dinky


  6. alex Says...

    On January 25, 2009 at 6:50 am

    Hi Mat,
    Interesting article… one thing thought… I would like to know the calories of a 100 gm of sea cucumber steamed. Thanks a bunch!


  7. swag on Says...

    On April 2, 2009 at 10:20 am

    dis is so stupid so u jus need to shut da f*** up


  8. turunawarasu n. Says...

    On April 27, 2009 at 11:00 am

    malaysian differentiate quality/grades of sea cucumber consume by chinese and would like to cultivate?? any help please… thx…. help me with this.. have a nice day


  9. joe Says...

    On May 3, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    cvbsfjvhsbfvbj badjkl brfbnjsk bjh brjknkl anjknr5klnsjbklt,8m;l i really liked it


  10. Diamond Says...

    On May 12, 2009 at 6:08 pm

    This is a veryy interstinq article…..its fresh and it gave me mad information thankyou a whole lot (watever ur name is)

    I luv sea cucumbers….!!!!!


  11. Nayra Pammer Says...

    On November 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Hi,i’m doing a report on sea cucumbers and I was just wondering what kind of fish live on a sea cucumbers back?

    Nayra p.s. thankya


  12. secret ninja girl Says...

    On November 28, 2010 at 9:02 pm

    I am doing a report on Sea Cucumbers and I was just wondering…….Who are the prey of a Sea Cucumber? I need to know soon! My report is due Tuesday! Help! Thx!

    Secret Ninja Girl


  13. Hallelujah Says...

    On January 18, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    How many offspring does a sea cucumber have at a time? Pleasee help!!!


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