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Phylum Echinodermata > Class Holothuroidea
Ball sea cucumber
Phyllophorus sp.
Family Phyllophoridae
updated Apr 2020
Where seen? This spherical sea cucumber is commonly seen on our Northern shores. It is usually buried in sandy areas near seagrasses, often many near one another. Sometimes, it may also be found washed up on the shore hidden among the seaweeds. Be careful not to step on these.

Features: 10-15cm. Body spherical. Those freshly dug-up are more U-shaped ovals with the mouth and backside facing the surface. Colour white, beige, brownish and sometimes orangey. Many tube feet and tiny filaments (papulae) evenly cover the entire body. These help grip the sand and keep the animal anchored underground. Feeding tentacles translucent white with branched tips which are darker. Usually, only the feeding tentacles stick out above the sand while the entire animal remains buried.

Many often buried just beneath the surface.
Changi, Aug 15

Freshly dug up sea cucumber with
anus and mouth facing upwards.
Changi, Apr 05

Feeding tentacles from a buried sea cucumber..
Changi, Jul 07
Those found above ground tend to be round, sometimes inflated into translucent white balls, sometimes floating in the water. Like some other sea cucumbers, it will eject its guts if it feels threatened.

What does it eat?
It gathers edible bits from the water with mucus-covered feeding tentacles.

Status and threats: The Tennis-ball sea cucumber (Phyllophorus spiculata) is listed as 'Vulnerable' on the Red List of threatened animals of Singapore. In Singapore, the main threat is habitat loss due to reclamation or human activities along the coast that pollute the water.

Rarely found above ground.
Changi, Jul 15

Feeding tentacles and long thin tube feet..

Those found above ground may be inflated into translucent balls and float in the water.
Changi, Nov 16

Ball sea cucumbers on Singapore shores
On wildsingapore flickr

Other sightings on Singapore shores

East Coast Park (B), May 21
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Berlayar Creek, Oct 15
Photo shared by Jonathan Tan on facebook.

Berlayar Creek, Apr 23
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on facebook.

Kusu Island, Sep 10
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on his blog.

Lazarus Island, Feb 11
Photo shared by Loh Kok Sheng on flickr.



  • Lane, David J.W. and Didier Vandenspiegel. 2003. A Guide to Sea Stars and Other Echinoderms of Singapore. Singapore Science Centre. 187pp.
  • Davison, G.W. H. and P. K. L. Ng and Ho Hua Chew, 2008. The Singapore Red Data Book: Threatened plants and animals of Singapore. Nature Society (Singapore). 285 pp.
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