“Chocolate Chip Sea Cucumber” (Isostrichopus badionotus)

Also known as the Cookie Dough Sea Cucumber, the chocolate chip sea cucumber is a species of Stichopodid sea cucumber which is commonly encountered throughout the western Atlantic Ocean, occurring from North Carolina to the Caribbean and south to Brazil, individuals also occur in western-central Africa. Chocolate chip sea cucumbers typically occur in shallow waters with a wide variety of substrates (sand, mud, rock, etc..). Like most sea cucumbers, I. badionotus is a detritivore combing the sea floor for any detritus it encounters. 


Animalia-Echinodermata-Holothuroideaia-Aspidochrotida-Stichopodidae-Isostichopus-I. badionotus

Images: Hans Hillewaert and Iaszlo-photo

Sea cucumbers are echinoderms which means their are closely related to starfish and urchins. They are typically 10 to 30 cm in length, although the smallest known species is just 3 mm long, and the largest grows up to 3 m. As their name suggests, most sea cucumbers have a soft, cylindrical and elongated body.

Released in 14 Dec 2015 in the journal Zookeys, the new species, found in the Straits of Malacca, Malaysia, at a depth of 6–8 m, is a member of this genus and its name is derived from the Latin words of fusiform (fusiformis) and bone (ossa).  According to the study, the new species Stichopus fusiformiossa has unusual fusiform spicules in the tentacles, which are not found in the other species of the genus.

Many sea cucumbers are valued as food and as a source of medicine, and Stichopus is a commonly exploited genus.

Sea cucumbers can be found everywhere on the ocean floor but in remarkable high numbers on the deep seafloor, where they often make up the majority of the animal biomass. At depths larger than 8.9 km, sea cucumbers comprise 90% of the total mass of the macrofauna. Sea cucumbers form large herds that move at the bottom of the ocean, hunting for food.