California Sea Cucumber

Scientific Name Parastichopus californicus

Native To Northern Pacific Coast from Alaska to Mexico

Habitat low intertidal zone to a depth of 250 m with areas of moderate current and bedrock or boulders

Diet Scavenger: plankton and other organic matter

Size and Age Can grow to be 50 cm

Natural History

Giant California sea cucumbers are large squishy invertebrates that occupy the shallow ocean floor. As scavengers, they sift through the sand using tentacles which protrude from their mouth, looking for dead or decaying organic matter. Their mouth and anus are on opposite ends of their body and they move using rows of tube feet that line the bottom of their body. Because their bodies are so soft, they are covered with spike like protuberances that they fill with surrounding ocean water to appear prickly and unappetizing. These body coverings are in fact soft though, and merely mimic the rough texture of other ocean invertebrates.

Least Concern

Conservation Status

Many ocean invertebrates requires delicate and balanced conditions to survive. For this reason they are known as an indicator species. When ocean conditions change, ocean invertebrates are the first to be affected. Rising ocean temperatures and ocean acidification (from urban and agricultural run-off) are some of the factors that alter the water quality of our oceans.

Interesting Facts

  • Sea cucumbers have separate sexes and fertilization of eggs occurs externally
  • They may also sit in one place and use their tentacles to catch food as it passes by in a current.
  • They move fastest while feeding, to a maximum of 4m a day