Smithsonian Marine Station at Fort Pierce

Website Search Box

Advanced Search

The gray sea cucumber, Holothuria grisea. Photo by LH Sweat, Smithsonian Institution.

Holothuria grisea attached to a rock. Note tentacles extended across the sediment for feeding. Photo by LH Sweat, Smithsonian Institution.

Species Name: Holothuria grisea
Common Name: Gray Sea Cucumber
Synonymy: Halodeima grisea
Ludwigothuria grisea

    Kingdom Phylum/Division Class: Order: Family: Genus:
    Animalia Echinodermata Holothuroidea Aspidochirotida Holothuriidae Holothuria

    Please refer to the accompanying glossary for definitions of the descriptive terms used in this report.

    Species Description

    The body of the gray sea cucumber, Holothuria grisea, is subcylindrical with a flattened sole covered in cylindrical tube feet (Hendler et al. 1995). In adults, six rows of papillae are found on the surface of the upper body. Juveniles have four rows. The papillae originate from large warts, each surrounded by 5-10 small tube feet. The mouth is positioned downward slightly, and is encircled by 20-25 bushy peltate tentacles.

    The gray sea cucumber has a more striking color pattern than its name suggests, which is a distinguishing feature in the species. Base colors include variations of red or yellowish red, marked with brown mottling (Hendler et al. 1995). Papillae on the upper body are white with yellow tips, the feet on the sole are tipped in yellow, and the tentacles are yellow.

    The body wall ossicles, including tables with 12 marginal spines on the disk, are scattered (Hendler et al. 1995). H. grisea also has an inner layer of plates with two or four central holes, smaller peripheral holes, and blunt teeth surrounding the margin.


    Habitat & Regional Occurence

    H. grisea inhabits seagrass beds, sand flats and, can often be found in Florida on reefs created by the worm, Phragmatopoma lapidosa (Hendler et al. 1995). Individuals are found intertidally to a depth of less than 5 m.

    The broad range of H. grisea extends from Florida (although not reported in the Florida Keys) to the Bahamas, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Lesser Antilles to Curaςao, Panama, Colombia, southern Brazil and West Africa (Hendler et al. 1995). This species may be a seasonal resident of coastal Texas (Pomory 1989).

    Indian River Lagoon Distribution

    The gray sea cucumber can be found throughout the IRL, although it appears to be most prevalent near inlets on rock-lined jetties and among worm reefs (LH Sweat, personal observation). H. grisea is reportedly more abundant in the summer months, even when salinities and temperatures increase substantially in shallow lagoon areas (Hendler et al. 1995).



    The gray sea cucumber can attain a length of about 25 cm (Hendler et al. 1995).


    No information is available at this time


    Trophic Mode

    Like several holothurians, H. grisea is primarily a deposit feeder, gathering organic matter and sediments with its branched feeding tentacles.


    Although H. grisea is not reportedly consumed in the United States, it is a small and growing source of food in Brazil (Hadel et al. 1999), where it is the most abundant sea cucumber (Tommasi 1969).


    Hadel FV, Monteiro AMV, Ditadi ASF, Tiago CG & LR Tommasi. 1999. Invertebrados marinhos: echinodermata. In: Joly CA & CEM Bicudo (Eds). Biodiversidade do Estado de São Paulo, Brasil: síntese ao conhecimento ao final do século XX, 3. FAPESP.

    Hendler G, Miller JE, Pawson DL & PM Kier. 1995. Sea stars, sea urchins, and allies: echinoderms of Florida and the Caribbean. Smithsonian Institution Press. Washington, D.C. 390 pp.

    Pomory C. 1989. Range extensions for Isostichopus badionotus Selenka, 1867 and Holothuria (Halodeima) grisea Selenka, 1867 (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea). Texas J. Sci. 41: 330-331.

    Tommasi LR. 1969. Lista dos holothuroidea recentes do Brasil. Contribuições Avulsas do Instituto Oceanográfico. Universidade de São Paulo, série Oceanografia Biológica, São Paulo 15:1–29.

Page by LH Sweat
For questions, comments or contributions, please contact us at:
Page last updated: 31 October 2012

[ TOP ]