Orange Sea Cucumber, Cucumaria miniata

The orange sea cucumber (Cucumaria miniata) has a large range that extends from northern waters of Mexico to northern waters of Alaska. It can be found at depths of up to 328 feet, resting within crevices of rocks or shipping docks. This species is typically found in areas with stronger currents in order to avoid predators, because it is able to attach itself to substrate.

The orange sea cucumber is typically reddish brown or orange in color, the trait from which it was given its common name. This species can also be distinguished by its tentacles, which branch out from its body. These tentacles serve as a feeding mechanism to pull food down into the body, which is typically completely covered within a crevice. It can reach an average body length of 9.8 inches, with a tentacle length of up to 3.1 inches when fully extended. As is typical to members of its family, the orange sea cucumber has five rows of tube feet, which help it move about and remain stable when attached to rocks.

The spawning season of the orange sea cucumber occurs between the months of March and May, during which time both males and females display the same behaviors. They lift their hind ends from the ground, releasing sperm and eggs simultaneously into the water column to ensure fertilization. These eggs develop into a form of larvae that do not eat and will continue to grow in the water column until they are nearly their adult size. After this, the larvae float to the sea floor. The orange sea cucumber can live to be between five and ten years old.

The diet of the orange sea cucumber consists mainly of plankton and detritus that it catches with its extended tentacles. Once the food is trapped within the tentacles, it is brought down into the mouth, where smaller tentacles further prevent the food from floating away. Between the months of November to March, this species cannot feed as often as during the rest of the year, because the number of plankton in its range decreases greatly. The orange sea cucumber can become prey to many types of sea stars including the sand star and the sun star.

Image Caption: Cucumaria miniata at Johnson Point, Washington. Credit: Kelly Cunningham/Wikipedia