Marine Biology

, Volume 156, Issue 7, pp 1389–1398 | Cite as

Feeding behaviour of the sea cucumber Cucumaria frondosa (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea) in the laboratory and the field: relationships between tentacle insertion rate, flow speed, and ingestion

  • E. H. Holtz
  • Bruce A. MacDonaldEmail author
Original Paper


The sea cucumber, Cucumaria frondosa, is a benthic suspension feeder that captures food particles on its tentacles and then inserts them into its mouth one at a time. Previous studies have suggested that tentacle insertion rate (TIR) could be a useful indicator of food intake. The present study determined whether flow velocity affects TIR and whether TIR is a good indicator of ingestion. Video observations of sea cucumbers in Passamaquoddy Bay (45°01.70N, 66°55.74W) in August 1995 showed that TIRs increased with velocities up to 55 cm s−1 and decreased steadily at flows above that up to 130 cm s−1. In October 2006, laboratory flume studies were carried out on specimens collected from the same site in the previous August. Temperature and salinity (12°C and 32) in the flume were the same as in the field at the time of collection. There was high individual variation in feeding behavior at free-stream velocities of 4–40 cm s−1 and TIR was independent of flow. As the number of tentacle insertions increased in the flume experiments, the amount of chloropigments in the digestive tracts of the sea cucumbers also increased. This suggests that TIR, which can be measured non-intrusively using remote video techniques, could be a good indicator of feeding behavior and ingestion in C. frondosa.


Water Velocity Particle Capture Laboratory Flume High Individual Variation Natural Flow Condition 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank J. Martin at the St. Andrews Biological Station for providing collections of sea cucumbers and K. Cummings for helping maintain them in the laboratory. Dr. H. Hunt and M.J. Maltais provided the flume and assistance with the operations. Dr. R. Singh and W. Armstrong provided logistical and technical support. Drs. J. Kieffer and R. Rochette provided valuable input to the project and comments on earlier versions of the manuscript. This work was supported by grants from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. This research was conducted under certification through the University of New Brunswick and the Canadian Council for Animal Care. We appreciate their support.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Centre for Coastal Studies and AquacultureUniversity of New BrunswickSaint JohnCanada

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