Noncommercial benthic fauna

Eastern Bering Sea


The sea peach, Halocynthia aurantium.

Phylum Urochordata, class Ascidiacea, order Stolidobranchia, family Pyuridae, species Halocynthia aurantium

Distribution and Life History: This ascidian is in the same family as the sea onion, Boltenia ovifera. See the sea potato (Styela rustica) account for generic information on ascidian life history. A related species, Halocynthia roretzi, has been cultivated in Korea and Japan for human consumption (Sloan, 1986). It is usually boiled and eaten raw after the tunic (tough outer covering) is removed.

Halocynthia aurantium - Occurs from the Arctic, throughout the Bering Sea, and south to Puget Sound (Ushakov, 1955b, Gotshall, 1994). Common north of the Alaska Peninsula (Kessler, 1985). Most common in depths of 40-100 m in the SE Bering, NE Bering, and SE Chukchi Seas (Jewett and Feder, 1981). The sea peach has a barrel-shaped body that is directly attached to the substrate. The red to orange outer covering is smooth or wrinkled and has two large siphons on top. Height to 18 cm (Kessler, 1985). This large, solitary ascidian is often found in groups (Ushakov, 1955b). In the western Bering Sea, Halocynthia is preyed upon by the crabs Chionoecetes opilio and C. bairdi (Ivanov, 1993). It is also preyed upon by the sea star Evasterias troschelii (Barr and Barr, 1983).