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Cucumaria miniata (Brandt, 1835)
Orange Sea Cucumber; Red Sea Gherkin
Family: Cucumariidae


© Neil McDaniel     (Photo ID #15849)


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Distribution of Cucumaria miniata in British Columbia in British Columbia


Click on the image below to view an expanded illustration for this taxon. If more than one illustration is available for a species (e.g., two subspecies may be illustrated) then links to the separate images will be provided below.

Species Information

Cucumaria miniata is a sausage-shaped sea cucumber that grows up to 15 to 20 cm long. It has five bands of tube feet separated by broad expanses of smooth skin, and occasional scattered tube feet. Its colour varies from light orange to a dark orange-brown. The introvert is usually a lighter shade than the rest of the body. The 10 equal-sized tentacles are quite full and bushy when they are extended. Tube feet on the introvert are more prominent than on the body.

Skin ossicles: flat, oval perforated plates, slightly tapered and seldom round; with occasional, pointed bumps on the surface of the plate.

Similar Species

Cucumaria pallida is a pale orange or white sea cucumber that lives in the same habitat as Cucumaria miniata, and was previously thought to be a pale form of this species. The 10 white tentacles of C. pallida are thin and wispy compared to the robust, bushy orange or brown tentacles of C. miniata.



miniata = bright red

Cucumaria miniata exhibits typical suspension-feeding behaviour. Feeding tentacles withdraw rapidly when touched. C. miniata feeds very little from November to March, when the plankton is reduced. Most specimens lie hidden beneath the rocks. The posterior end protrudes from beneath the rock to fill the respiratory trees with freshly oxygenated water.

Spawning is from early March to mid May, during intervals of slack tide. The anterior part of the body extends and green eggs (mean diameter 520 mm) are released in buoyant pellets which later fall apart. The yolky egg develops into a sluggish, non-feeding larva. Juveniles settle onto the undersides of rocks near the adults.

Predators of Cucumaria miniata include the Sand Star (Luidia foliolata), the Northern Sun Star (Solaster endeca) and the Sun Star (Solaster stimpsoni). The latter causes C. miniata to react with violent contractions in an effort to escape. The Kelp Greenling nips off the tentacles of this sea cucumber.

Like vertebrates, Cucumaria miniata uses haemoglobin to absorb and transport oxygen to the cells. The blood cells of C. miniata also show many structural similarities to the blood cells of some lower vertebrates such as trout and hagfish.

Some specimens of Cucumaria miniata contain a parasitic gastropod, Thyonicola dogieli. This parasite appears as a long egg-filled tube that is coiled like a spring.


Cucumaria miniata is a common intertidal sea cucumber on the coast. It is found in sheltered waters among rock rubble in low intertidal or shallow subtidal areas. The body is hidden under rocks, but the bright orange or brown tentacles extend up into the water. This species is especially abundant where tidal current and rock rubble occur together.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Synonyms and Alternate Names

Cladodactyla miniata Brandt

Additional Range and Status Information Links

General References