Chemical composition of the giant red sea cucumber, Parastichopus californicus, commercially harvested in Alaska



Alexandra C. M. Oliveira, Associate Professor of Seafood Chemistry, KSMSC, UAF. Tel: (907) 942-5559; Fax: (907) 486-1530; E-mail:


Giant red sea cucumbers, Parastichopus californicus, are commercially harvested in the U.S. Pacific Northwest; however, the nutritional and chemical properties of its edible muscle bands and body wall have not been fully elucidated. In particular are the fatty acid profiles of P. californicus tissues, which have not been documented. Sea cucumbers were delivered live and muscle bands and body wall freeze dried, vacuum packed, and stored at −30°C until analyzed. Proximate composition of freeze-dried tissues varied greatly with muscle bands being composed of 68% protein, 12% ash, 9% carbohydrate, and 5% lipids, while the body wall was composed of 47% protein, 26% ash, 15% carbohydrate, and 8% lipids. The hydroxyproline, proline, and glycine contents of the body wall were much higher than those in muscle bands, consistent with the larger amount of connective tissue. Calcium, magnesium, sodium, and iron contents were higher in the body wall than those in muscle bands, whereas the opposite was observed for zinc content. Total long-chain n-3 fatty acid contents were 19% and 32% of total fatty acids in body wall and muscle bands, respectively. Muscle bands had higher content of eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5n-3) than body wall at 22.6% and 12.3%, respectively. High content of arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) was recorded in both body wall (7.1%) and muscle bands (9.9%). Overall, the fatty acid profiles of body wall and muscle bands of P. californicus resemble those described for other species; however, the distribution and occurrence of certain fatty acids is unique to P. californicus, being representative of the fatty acid composition of temperate-polar marine organisms. The chemical characterization of freeze-dried edible tissues from P. californicus demonstrated that these products have valuable nutritional properties. The body wall, a food product of lower market value than muscle bands, could be better utilized for nutraceutical and pharmaceutical applications.