Tropical to warm temperate latitudes of the Indo-Pacific Oceans
Coral reefs and seagrass beds and surrounding sandy areas
Class Holothuroidea (sea cucmbers), Family Holothuriidae (fleshy sea cucumbers)
Sea cucumbers are a type of marine invertebrate related to the sea urchins and sea stars, collectively known as the echinoderms. Echinoderms are the closest living invertebrate relatives of the vertebrates, so our closest invertebrate cousin might just be a sea cucumber. The edible sea cucumber gets its name from the fact that it is a fisheries species, eaten in many places around the world, particularly throughout Asia.
Like most sea cucumbers, the edible sea cucumber is a scavenger. It crawls along soft bottoms near coral reefs and seagrass beds ingesting sand and mud in its path. It separates out and digests any plant or animal matter and passes the sand, leaving a trail of clean sand behind. The edible sea cucumber feeds throughout the day and night, resting occasionally.
This species reproduces through a behavior known as broadcast spawning, where females release eggs and males release sperm into the water column at the same time. This method increases the likelihood that eggs will become successfully fertilized and that fertilized eggs will not be eaten by egg predators on the reef surface.
Though considered a fisheries species, populations of edible sea cucumbers are generally considered stable, and scientists believe the species to be one of least concern.
Oceana joined forces with Sailors for the Sea, an ocean conservation organization dedicated to educating and engaging the world’s boating community. Sailors for the Sea developed the KELP (Kids Environmental Lesson Plans) program to create the next generation of ocean stewards. Click here or below to download hands-on marine science activities for kids.