Orange Sea Cucumber


INTRODUCTION

The orange sea cucumber, Cucumaria miniata ("cue cue MARE ee ah min ee OTT ah"), is fairly common. This marine invertebrate resembles an orange cucumber, hence the name. It belongs to the phylum Echinodermata, which also includes sea stars and sea urchins. It is a member of the class Holothuroidea.

Orange sea cucumbers have reduced skeletons and a worm like form.

Appearance

The wormlike shape of many sea cucumbers has led to some pretty wild ideas such as this giant man eating species.    

In reality most cucumbers move slowly along the bottom using five rows of sucker like tube feet similar to those in their cousins, the sea stars.   However, at least, one local species swims or wiggles through the water when attacked by the sunflower sea star. 

 Cucumaria miniata is able to alter its shape, because instead of bones it has a hydrostatic skeleton. A hydrostatic skeleton is made of water.  This allows the sea cucumber to shorten and fatten its body to wedge itself into crevices and under  rocks. When threatened the orange sea cucumber can also become stiff like a foot ball, making it more difficult to bite or grab.

 

The gang!

Drawing by Iris Churcher,
Malaspina University-College

A man eating sea cucumber? Neptune and the Sea cucumber

From Forbes, E. 1841. A History of British Star-fishes, and Other Animals of the Class Echinodermata.  van Voorst, London.

 

Contracted Sea cucumbers

Orange sea cucumbers

Photo by Bill Austin, Marine Ecology Centre