Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

California Sea Cucumber

(Parastichopus californicus)

Habitat and Distribution: Found in the low intertidal zone, to depths of 800 feet, along the Pacific coast from the Gulf of Alaska to Southern California.

Size: Up to 3 inches wide and 20 inches long

Wild Diet: Plankton, algae, bacteria, fungi, and other organic matter

Predators: Sea turtles, sea stars, crustaceans, fish, and humans

Lifespan: Up to 10 years in aquariums

Reproduction: Spawning usually takes place in November. Each female produces thousands of eggs which she releases into the water. These eggs are then fertilized by sperm released by male sea cucumbers. This method of reproduction is called broadcast spawning.

Behavior: California sea cucumbers are solitary and nocturnal. They feed by positioning themselves in a current and sifting through passing sediment with 20 retractable tentacles.

Conservation

IUCN Status: Least Concern

California sea cucumbers are abundant across a wide range and harvested sustainably. Their populations started to decline in the 1980s, but harvesting restrictions have allowed this species to recover. They are targeted for their muscles and skin.

Did you know?

  • California sea cucumbers often have flatworms living on their underside. These worms don't hurt the sea cucumber but the worm benefits by living in a safe place where food is easy to come by.
  • When threatened, they throw out their internal organs to entangle the predator in mucus. The organs are usually regrown.