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Parastichopus leukothele Lambert, 1986
White-Spined Sea Cucumber
Family: Stichopodidae


© Neil McDaniel     (Photo ID #15857)


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Distribution of Parastichopus leukothele in British Columbia in British Columbia


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Species Information

Parastichopus leukothele can measure up to 38 cm long (preserved). The elongate cylindrical body has a blunt anterior end and a tapering tail. Small (less than 1 cm), white papillae are scattered over the dorsal surface: approximately 2 per cm². The skin is rich orange with rusty brown patches around the bases of some papillae. The tube feet are confined to the ventral surface in four bands, each consisting of four rows. Twenty peltate feeding tentacles in two circles surround the mouth. The tube feet are usually white and often tipped with orange.

Skin ossicles: tables and oval perforated plates; tables have mean diameter of 113 μm and 2 to 10 spines at the top of the spire.

Similar Species

Parastichopus leukothele is similar in shape to P. californicus, but different in body colour and in the size of the papillae. P. leukothele has larger table ossicles, but with fewer spines on the spire.



leukothele = white papillae

Specimens in aquaria exhibit typical feeding behaviour, using their feeding tentacles like mops to pick up bottom sediments. Little is known about their reproduction except that eggs in the ovary are largest in March and April, and smallest from June to September. This suggests that spawning takes place in May. Unlike P. californicus, P. leukothele did not exhibit an escape response when touched by the Sunflower Star (Pycnopodia helianthoides).

The scale-worm, Arctonoe pulchra, occurs on the external surface; and I have found it in the body cavity of two specimens that had expelled their internal organs. Presumably, the scale-worm was able to enter the cavity through the damaged cloacal opening after auto-evisceration.


Most specimens are trawled from soft sediments on the continental shelf. Some have been observed from a submersible on sediment-covered rock ledges. I collected the type specimen at scuba-diving depth (26 m) on a rocky substratum in the Queen Charlotte Islands; but the species is rarely seen this shallow. In the past, this species has probably been lumped together with P. californicus, thus it is difficult to estimate its abundance from the literature. However, in Queen Charlotte Sound a 15-minute haul with a 10-foot otter trawl yielded 14 specimens: so in certain localities it is no doubt common.

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.

Additional Range and Status Information Links

General References