Tigers tail sea cucumber

Holothuria (Thymiosycia) thomasi

ORDER

Aspidochirotida

FAMILY Holothuriidae

TAXONOMY

Holothuria (Thymiosycia) thomasi Pawson and Caycedo, 1980, Colombia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Large holothuroid to 6.5 ft (2 m) long. Mottled light brown with white-tipped papillae and 20 usually light-colored peltate tentacles. Ventral side lighter than dorsum with scattered tube feet. Skin is thick but soft. The large scattered papillae on the dorsal surface give this sea cucumber a somewhat shaggy appearance. Ossicles in the body wall are ellipsoid buttons with two longitudinal rows of holes in pairs. Tower ossicles usually have a squat spire and a square base ringed with 12 holes.

DISTRIBUTION

Most of the Caribbean Sea from the Bahamas to Colombia, eastward to Panama and Mexico.

HABITAT

Steep forereefs with living corals from 10-100 ft (3-30 m) depth. BEHAVIOR

Hides in reef crevices during the day when not feeding and at most extends only the anterior end to feed. When disturbed, the tiger's tail sea cucumber swells its posterior end to prevent dislodgment and retracts quickly into its shelter.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

A nocturnal deposit feeder capable of ingesting large pieces of coral rubble.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Nothing is known. However, gonads of specimens found in the Virgin Islands appeared ripe in July and consisted of numerous elongate tubules. Other species from the subgenus Thymiosycia have a feeding, planktonic auricularia larva.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN or under the CITES convention.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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