Cucumaria miniata (Brandt, 1835)

Common name:  Orange Sea Cucumber, red sea cucumber, vermilion sea cucumber, red sea gherkin

Cladodactyla miniata, Stereoderma miniata, Cucumaria japonica, Cucumaria albida
Phylum Echinodermata
 Class Holothuroidea
   Order Dendrochirotida
     Family Cucumariidae
Found on Sares Head, WA.  Side view.  Animal is approx. 10cm in length.
Photo by: Kelly Williams, June 2002
Description:  C. miniata ranges in length from 10 to 25 cm.  The body is reddish brown or pinkish brown (but may be pinkish white to purple) with bright orange oral tentacles.  The species’ body wall is thick and tough.  There are 10 equally sized oral tentacles that are branched.  The tube feet are arranged in definite rows, but other podia may occasionally occur between rows.  Length to 25 cm.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:  Cucumaria pallida is of similar size and feeds in a similar manner but it has white oral tentacles.

Geographical Range:  From Sitka, Alaska to Monterey Co., California

Depth Range:  Low intertidal to 100m deep

Habitat:  In cobble and rocky areas, living between rocks and in crevices.

Biology/Natural History:  C. miniata uses its oral tentacles to trap small organisms and detritus suspended in the water.  Undisturbed animals may have the body curved into a U shape, so that both the mouth and anus are exposed to moving water.  The tentacles can retract rapidly if disturbed.  C. miniata is predated on by the sea stars Dermasterias imbricata, Solaster stimpsoni, and S. endeca.  Kelp greenling fish sometimes nip the oral tentacles.  Tests have shown that neither the body wall nor the viscera are toxic to fish.  Eggs, embryos, and larvae are orange in color.  The larvae have been found in the plankton of the Puget Sound during the months of March and April.

This species sometimes contains an internal parasitic gastropod, Thyonicola dogieli, which appears as a coiled, egg-filled tube.

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Dichotomous Keys:
  Carlton, 2007
  Kozloff, 1987

General References:
  Lamb and Hanby, 2005
  Lambert, 1997
  Morris, Abbott, and Haderlie, 1992.
  Kozloff, 1993.
  Sept, 1999.

Scientific Articles:

Emlet, Richard B., 1994. Body forms and patterns of ciliation in nonfeeding larvae of echinoderms: functional solutions to swimming in the plankton? American Zoologist 34: pp. 570-585

Knott, K. Emily, and Gregory A. Wray, 2000. Controversy and consensus in Asteroid systematics: new insights to Ordinal and Familial relationships. American Zoologist 40:3 pp. 382-392

McEdward, Larry R. and Benjamin G. Miner, 2006.  Estimation and interpretation of egg provisioning in marine invertebrates.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 46:3 pp 224-232

General Notes and Observations:  Locations, abundances, unusual behaviors, etc.:

Some individuals in a tide pool, wedged between rocks as usual.  Photo by Dave Cowles, June 1995.
Width of animal is approximately 7 cm.

Here an individual is stuffing one of its oral tentacles into its mouth.  Photo by Dave Cowles, June 1995

Feeding-Sares Head
Another individual feeding at about 15 m depth off Sares Head, 2014.  Notice that a darker-hued individual is in the shadow at the bottom right of the photo.
Click HERE for a video of  feeding, taken by Brian Watkins 2020.

This photo shows the animals extended underwater.  Note the two colors of oral tentacles.  Underwater photo by Jim Nestler, July 2005

Authors and Editors of Page:
Kelly Williams (2002):  Created original page
Edited by Hans Helmstetler  12-2002, Dave Cowles 2005