sea cucumbers text index | photo index
Phylum Echinodermata > Class Holothuroidea
Thorny sea cucumber
Colochirus quadrangularis
Family Cucumariidae
updated Oct 2016
Where seen? This small colourful sea cucumber is sometimes commonly seen on our Northern shores. It appears to be seasonally abundant. There are times where many individuals are seen, jammed next to one another. At other times, few are seen, widely separated from one another.

Thorny sea cucumbers do not appear to burrow into the ground and are often found on the sand especially in seagrass areas, clinging to tubeworm tubes or other hard surfaces.

Features: 6-10cm long, and really tiny ones hardly bigger than a seagrass leaf are sometimes also seen. Body short, squarish or quadrangular in cross-section with a distinct upperside and underside. The underside has three rows of short red tube feet. The tube feet may be used to stick to seagrass or cling to hard surfaces. The upperside has soft, harmless thorn-shaped projections. The anus has five tiny teeth-like structures. Colours range from bright red or orange, with shades of grey and green or bluish lines along the length. The feeding tentacles may be yellow, orange or red.

Sometimes confused with the Pink warty sea cucumber (Cercodemas anceps) which looks similar and is found in the same habitat. The Pink warty sea cucumber is less common and has pink warty bumps instead of soft thorns.

What does it eat? It gathers plankton and suspended organic particles from the water with feathery feeding tentacles. Each tentacle is stuffed one by one into the mouth to wipe off any edible bits that are stuck to it.

Human uses: Thorny sea cucumbers are among the sea cucumbers harvested for the live aquarium trade, although not as popular as the more colourful Sea apple sea cucumber (Pseudocolochirus violaceus). Like other fish and creatures harvested from the wild, most die before they can reach the retailers. Without pro
fessional care, most die soon after they are sold. Often of starvation as owners are unable to provide the food that they need to survive. Those that do survive are unlikely to breed.

Sometimes seen in large numbers
clusterd together.

Tuas, Oct 10

Sometimes with blue stripes.
Beting Bronok, Jul 05

Tinier than a seagrass leaf.
Changi, May 06

Ulimid snails found on the sea cucumber.
East Coast, Jun 09
Photo shared by James Koh on flickr.

Commensal shrimp seen on the sea cucumber.

Beting Bronok, Aug 05

Feeding tentacles.

Pulau Sekudu, Aug 03

Teeth-like projections around the anus.

Changi, Jun 05

Three rows of tube feet on the underside.

Thorny sea cucumbers on Singapore shores

Photos of Thorny sea cucumbers for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Pulau Ubin, Dec 09
Photo shared by James Koh on his blog.

Tanah Merah, Aug 09
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Seringat-Kias, Feb 11
Photo shared by Russel Low on facebook.

Sentosa Serapong, May 16
Photo shared by Ivan Kwan on facebook.

Sentosa Siloso, May 09
Photo shared by Ivan Kwan on his blog.

Links References
  • Lane, David J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 187pp.
FREE photos of sea cucumbers. Make your own badge here.
links | references | about | email Ria
Spot errors? Have a question? Want to share your sightings? email Ria I'll be glad to hear from you!
wildfactsheets website©ria tan 2008