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|Conservation Status||Least Concern|
Holothuroidea are a class of marine animals (phylum Echinodermata) with an elongated body and leathery skin, which is found on the sea floor worldwide. Many holothurian species and genera, informally known as sea cucumbers, are targeted for human consumption. The harvested product is also referred to as sea cucumber, or as trepang, bêche-de-mer, balate, or sea slug. The body contains a single, branched gonad.
Like all echinoderms, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin, calcified structures that are usually reduced to isolated microscopic ossicles (or sclerietes) joined by connective tissue. These can sometimes be enlarged to flattened plates, forming an armour. In pelagic species such as Pelagothuria natatrix (Order Elasipodida, family Pelagothuriidae), the skeleton and a calcareous ring are absent.
Holothuroidea are generally scavengers, feeding on debris in the benthic zone of the ocean. Exceptions include pelagic cucumbers and the species Rynkatropa pawsoni, which has a commensal relationship with deep-sea anglerfish. The diet of most cucumbers consists of plankton and decaying organic matter found in the sea. Some sea cucumbers position themselves in currents and catch food that flows by with their open tentacles. They also sift through the bottom sediments using their tentacles.