Burrowing Sea Cucumber

Cucumaria minitata

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Unlike the better known California Stichopus, at first glance the Burrowing Sea Cucumber may appear to be plantlike. They are related to other echinoderms including sea stars, urchins, Sand Dollars and Brittle Stars.

As the name would suggest, most of the animal remains hidden under the sand or in rocky fissures with only the head and feather-like tentacles visible. These branching tentacles are used by the animal to filter nutrients from the surrounding water. The animal’s thick body is lined with five rows of tube feet, separated by bands of smooth skin. These rows of tube feet begin just below the cucumber’s head and are visible when the animal partially emerges to feed.

This is one of the more brightly colored of the burrowing sea cucumbers, as most varieties are usually a dull brown, tan or gray. This variety is sometimes known as the Red or Orange Burrowing Sea Cucumber. Ochre Sea Stars and Sunflower Stars are known predators for this animal.

Range and Habitat

The Burrowing Sea Cucumber is common to tide pools and along the open coast from Vancouver, British Columbia, to northern Mexico.

Conservation Status