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Phylum Echinodermata > Class Holothuroidea
Ball sea cucumber
Phyllophorus sp.
Family Phyllophoridae
updated Oct 2016
Where seen? This spherical sea cucumber is commonly seen on some of our Northern shores. It is usually buried in sandy areas near seagrasses. 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. Often spherical, but sometimes elongated. Short stubby tube feet and tiny filaments (papulae) evenly cover the entire body. These help grip the sand and keep the animal anchored underground. Usually, only the feeding tentacles stick out while the entire animal remains buried. The branching feeding tentacles are transparent with dark tips. Usually white, beige, brownish and sometimes orangey.

Those found above ground tend to be round, sometimes inflated into transparent white balls. Freshly dug-up ball sea cucumbers are more ovoid as they place the mouth and backside near the surface. 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 bushy 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.

Chek Jawa, Mar 05

Ejecting its innards.
Chek Jawa, Nov 01

Injured sea cucumber ejecting innards.
Chek Jawa, Feb 05

Feeding tentacles.
Changi, Jul 07

Those found washed ashore
may be inflated into transparent balls.
Changi, Apr 05

Changi, Apr 05

Mouth and anus facing the surface.

Ball sea cucumbers on Singapore shores

Photos of Ball sea cucumbers for free download from wildsingapore flickr

Distribution in Singapore on this wildsingapore flickr map

Berlayar Creek, Oct 15
Photo shared by Jonathan Tan 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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