California Stichopus

Parastichopus californicus

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It may be hard to believe that these strange-looking creatures (commonly known as sea cucumbers) are actually related to sea stars, sea urchins and sand dollars. Sea cucumbers resemble large worms (growing up to about sixteen inches (41 cm) in length) with reddish-brown, brown or yellow skin with cone-shaped protrusions on the body for protection. The underside of the sea cucumber is covered with five rows of tube feet that run the length of the body.

Slow-moving and reclusive, they can be found in the lowest area of the tide pools in oceans around the world. They will often confine themselves to the holes between rocks for protection where they eat a variety of organic materials that cling to the surfaces around them. This particular species of sea cucumber has a unique form a defense where they spit out their innards when attacked. This gives the predator something to feed on while the sea cucumber gets away. Once the sea cucumber is safely hidden again, it will begin to grow back its internal organs.

Range and Habitat

The California Stichopus can be found from British Columbia to Baja California. They are common on rocky shores and pilings in quiet waters. They are often easily spotted in tide pools during low tide.

Conservation Status