Cucumaria piperata (Stimpson, 1864)

Common name(s): Peppered sea cucumber, Salt and pepper sea cucumber

Synonyms:  Pentacta piperata
Phylum Echinodermata
 Class Holothuroidea
  Order Dendrochirotida
   Family Cucumariidae
Cucumaria piperata, 12 cm long, from 10 m depth at Northwest Island
(Photo by: Dave Cowles, July 2005)
Description:  This cucumber is usually white, yellowish, or orange-pink, with purple, brown, or black speckles on its body.  The speckles may be mostly on the anterior end, and especially on the buccal tentacles (photo).  The tube feet are in 5 approximately equally-spaced, double longitudinal rows (photo).  The skin is smooth.  The ten buccal tentacles are bushy and branched (photo).  Length to 12 cm.

How to Distinguish from Similar Species:  Cucumaria miniata grows larger, is brown or orange, and is not speckled. Eupentacta species may be similar in color but are usually smaller and have no speckles.

Geographical Range:  Queen Charlotte Islands, BC to Baja California (reported sightings south of Puget Sound may actually be of Pseudocnus lubricus).

Depth Range:  Subtidal to 137 m

Habitat:  Wedged between and under rocks and cobble

Biology/Natural History:  A suspension feeder.  Spawns in spring in Puget Sound.  Eggs are olive-green and float when released; larvae are orange.  Body wall (but not the viscera) is toxic to fish such as kelp greenling and gunnels but apparently not to seastars.  May contain the pea crab Pinnixa faba.

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Dichotomous Keys:
  Flora and Fairbanks, 1966
  Kozloff 1987, 1996
  Smith and Carlton, 1975

General References:
Harbo, 1999
Lambert, 1997
Morris et al., 1980
O'Clair and O'Clair, 1998
Ricketts et al., 1985

Scientific Articles:
Arndt, A., C. Marquez, P. Lambert, and M.J. Smith, 1966.  Molecular phylogeny of eastern Pacific sea cucumbers (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) based on mitochondrial DNA sequence.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 6(3): 425-437

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

Web sites:

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

The ten buccal tentacles are branched.  Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2005

The tube feet are in rows down the body.  Photo by Dave Cowles, July 2005

Authors and Editors of Page:
Dave Cowles (2005):  Created original page