Giant medusan worm

Synapta maculata

ORDER Apodida

FAMILY Synaptidae


Holothuria maculata (Chamisso and Eysenhardt, 1821), Marshall Islands, Micronesia. Three subspecies recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES German: Wurmseegurke.


An unmistakable species, the longest sea cucumber with a maximum length of 10 ft (3 m), although most animals reach only approximately 3-5 ft (1.0-1.5 m) long. This sea cucumber is serpentine and a mottled light and dark brown. There are 2040 tentacles, which are feather-like. Ossicles are anchors and oblong perforated plates as well as tiny rosettes and rough rods. The sharp tines of the anchor ossicles protrude from the body wall so that when handled the animal seems to stick to the hands.


Tropical western Indian Ocean to central Pacific Ocean. HABITAT

Coral reefs and adjacent sand flats in subtidal areas to approximately 40 ft (12 m) depth.


A common species that is active during the day, the giant medusan worm moves slowly by peristalsis, using the posteriorly recurved anchor ossicles protruding from its body wall to gain a purchase on the substrate. When attacked by its principal predator, the gastropod Tonna perdix, the giant medusan worm may allow the snail to tear off the posterior most portion of its body without any apparent ill effect.


The giant medusan worm is a deposit feeder. It feeds by lashing its feathery tentacles over the sediment, rocks, and sea grass blades.


Like several other members of Synaptidae, the giant medusan worm is hermaphroditic. Eggs are less than 0.004 in (0.1 mm) in diameter. The animal is a broadcast spawner with a feeding auricularia larva that lives as plankton until it metamorphoses and settles to the bottom as a juvenile.


Not listed by the IUCN or under the CITES convention.


Reproduction Biology

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