Red-chested sea cucumbers live in great numbers on shallow reefs. According to Two Oceans: A Guide to the Marine Life of Southern Africa (Struik Nature, 2010), the “young are brooded in pockets in the skin and can often be seen clinging to the surface of the parent”.

Sea cucumbers belong to the same scientific group as starfish (Echinodermata), although they are no longer star-shaped. Instead they have long sausage-like bodies with soft leathery skins. 

This creature’s mouth is at one end, surrounded by sticky tentacles which it uses to either gather food off the seabed and/or catch floating plankton. 

If threatened, the sea cucumber can eject part or all of its gut, which it can later regenerate. Some species of sea cucumbers’ gut is extremely toxic and could kill an entire aquarium of fish.

Sea cucumbers are eaten as a delicacy in some parts of the world. They are dried in the sun before being consumed – apparently they have a delicate flavour and are very nutritious.

(Photo: Geoff Spiby)

Species Facts

  • Belongs to the same scientific group as starfish.
  • Can eject part or all of its gut if threatened.