Sea apple

Pseudocolochirus violaceus ORDER

Dendrochirotida

FAMILY Cucumariidae

TAXONOMY

Colochirus violaceus (Theel, 1886), Philippines. Synonyms include P. axiologus, P. arae, P. bicolor, and P. tricolor.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Pomme de mer; German: Seeapfel.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

A large, colorful species to 7 in (18 cm) long. Color is variable, often purple. There are three ventral, longitudinal rows of tube feet. The dorsal side has two rows of papillae and small scat tered papillae. The body is curved in life so that the mouth and anus point upward. The 10 tentacles are bushy purple to red with white tips. Body-wall ossicles are rounded, smooth plates with a few holes and occasionally are absent in large animals.

DISTRIBUTION

Indian Ocean to western Pacific Ocean in continental and continental-island areas, such as Fiji through Indonesia north to southern Japan, south to Australia and Lord Howe Islands but absent from true oceanic islands. India west to Red Sea, Madagascar, and South Africa.

HABITAT

Hard substrates, including coral reefs, to 40 ft (12 m) depth in areas with currents or upwellings.

BEHAVIOR

Lives partly concealed to fully exposed with tentacles expanded, even during the day.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The sea apple is a suspension feeder. It can feed continuously, capturing large phytoplankton with outstretched arborescent tentacles lightly coated in mucus.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Sexes are separate. Females are distinguished by having a gonopore atop a single unadorned tube a few millimeters long. The counterpart structure in males is tipped in numerous papillae. Males and females release gametes into the water column, where fertilization and development of the larvae take place.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN or under the CITES convention.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Sea apples are taken in moderate numbers for the marine aquarium trade but are of only minor economic significance, because only approximately 1,000 of these animals are imported annually into North American and European countries. ♦

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