Slipper sea cucumber

Psolus chitinoides

ORDER

Dendrochirotida

FAMILY Psolidae

TAXONOMY

Psolus chitinoides H. L. Clark, 1901, Puget Sound, Washington, United States.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Armored sea cucumber, pedal sea cucumber. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

A yellow to pinkish orange and ovoid sea cucumber to 3 in (8 cm) long. Both mouth and anus are upturned. The dorsum is arched and covered in large, flat plates. The bottom is a soft, flattened sole with tube feet concentrated around its perimeter and scattered down the center. The 10 white-tipped, red tentacles are extensively branched. In addition to the large dorsal plates, the ventral wall of this species has smaller flat and oval ossicles with closely spaced holes and, in larger ossicles, knobs or a central reticulated mound.

DISTRIBUTION

Pacific coast of North America from the Aleutian Islands south to central Baja California.

HABITAT

Most common in intertidal areas such as rocky shorelines, but occurs from 0-800 ft (0-244 m) on hard, inclined surfaces swept by current.

BEHAVIOR

The slipper sea cucumber firmly attaches itself to smooth rocks but can use its tube feet to creep along slowly. When the sea cucumber is positioned, the body often becomes covered in debris or other organisms, leaving only bright red tentacles in view.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

The slipper sea cucumber feeds in a manner very similar to that of the sea apple, by extending its bushy tentacles into the current to capture passing particles of food.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Sexes are separate. Spawning occurs from March until May by release of gametes into the water column, where fertilization takes place. Males aid the dispersal of sperm into the water column by waving a tentacle across the gonopore. Eggs are red and approximately 0.02 in (600 pm) in diameter. The larva does not feed while in the plankton but is provisioned with lipid stores, which see the larva through development.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN or under the CITES convention.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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