This Fish Swims Up a Sea Cucumber’s Butt and Eats Its Gonads
by Matt Simon
(You’re a Sea Cucumber…) You’re breathing through your anus, by the way, and when you take a breath, the pearlfish strikes — squirming up your butt, making itself comfortable in your respiratory organ, and eating your gonads. Or, they’ll go up in pairs and have sex in your body cavity. And that’s when you realize that you must have been a really awful human being in a past life. Like, the type of person who talks on their phone in a movie theater kind of awful.
Such pearlfishes come in a range of species, and don’t necessarily limit themselves to invading sea cucumbers. They’ll also work their way into sea stars, and are so named because they’ve been found dead inside oysters, completely coated in mother-of-pearl. Beautiful, really, though I reckon the pearlfish would beg to differ.
This behavior is the strange product of a housing crisis. You see, shelter is in short supply on many seafloors, particularly those that lack reefs. And there are few better shelters than sea cucumbers, little mobile homes that pearlfishes will enter pretty much as they please, leaving to hunt and returning for protection. If they can’t return to the same one, no worries at all. There’s plenty of decent housing squirming around the seafloor — if you’re willing to live in a sea cucumber’s bum…
Who loves the Kronos Quartet? Who loves a sea pig? Now’s your chance to see them BOTH in one video. A dream come true! But, wait, what in the world is a sea pig? Linda Kuhnz at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute is here to tell you all about it …
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Host: Michael Hearst Producer: Joe Beshenkovsky & Michael Hearst
Scientists discover that starfish eyes really can see things, at least a little…
So, starfish actually have eyes - they are located on each of their arms—but up until now we didn’t know if they could actually see out of them!! Exciting new research has indicated that the eyes of sea stars can actually vaguely see images. These images are thought to help prevent them from moving too far from their home.
"These new findings are an important breakthrough in our understanding of how sea stars perceive the world" - Christopher Mah (researcher at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.)
"After decades of wondering what starfish use their eyes for, scientists see some light"
A majority of sea stars have eyes on the ends of their arms. They are difficult to see and even if you do find them, you may not know that they are eyes. The starfish in the top image is an Indo-Pacific species called the blue star (Linckia laevigata). The image below (image two) is an up-close of one arm. There is a small groove along the bottom-side, which has many little tubular “feet”. The seastar uses these to move about. At the end is where the eye sits, just near the top of the groove (white arrow).
Found only in salt water, more than a thousand species of sea cucumbers exist around the world. These squishy invertebrates are echinoderms, making them distant relatives to starfish and urchins. Unlike starfish or sea urchins, the bodies of sea cucumbers are covered with soft, leathery skin instead of hard spines.
If you ever encounter a sea cuke and he feels threatened, you could be in for a surprise. Some sea cucumbers shoot sticky threads at their enemies, entangling and confusing predators. Others can violently contract their muscles and shoot some of their internal organs out of their rear ends. The missing body parts are quickly regenerated…
Blood star (Henricia sanguinolenta) on a sandy beach, Reykjavík, southwest Iceland.
The blood star is a starfish found in the North Atlantic and the North Pacific. It is often found along the shore where it feeds on the bodies of sessile invertebrates such as sponges, or on suspended material using filter feeding.
Animalia - Echinodermata - Asterozoa - Asteroidea - Spinulosida - Echinasteridae - Henricia - H. sanguinolenta
Also known as the Chocolate Chip or Knobbed Sea Star, the horned sea star is a species of oreasterid sea star that occurs in warm, shallow waters in the Indo-Pacific. Like many other sea stars P. nodosus is an opportunistic carnivore and will feeds mainly on sessile invertebrates and other slow moving invertebrates. The “horns” which give P. nodosus its common name are used mainly to deter potential predators by making it look less palatable.
A rarely seen pink brittlestar on an octocoral (soft coral). Image captured by the Little Hercules remotely operated vehicle at 1,517 meters depth on a site referred to as ‘Baruna Jaya IV - Site 1’ on August 1, 2010, during the NOAA Okeanos Explorer Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region.
This swimming elasipod sea cucumber (Paleopatides sp.) was photographed off the northern shore of Ta’u Island during the exploration of Vailulu’u, an underwater volcano that lies approximately 20 miles east of Ta’u Island in American Samoa. The volcano and its hydrothermal vents offered an exciting opportunity for scientists to explore the complex interface between the lithosphere, hydrosphere and biosphere.
This large pink sea fan belongs to the genus Paragorgia. This specimen is nearly two m tall and is held in place by a “holdfast” nearly 12 cm in diameter. It holds within its branches a thriving community of brittle stars, crabs, and shrimp - giving it the appearance of a well-decorated Christmas tree.
Image courtesy of Exploring Alaska’s Seamounts 2002, NOAA/OER.
Outbreak has devastated several species along North America’s Pacific coast this year.
by Danielle Venton
In their waterproof orange overalls, Hannah Perlkin and Emily Tucker look like commercial fishermen or storm-ready sailors. But they are biologists on their way to tide pools along a remote stretch of northern California coast. There they are searching for the cause of a mysterious and unprecedented die-off of sea stars along North America’s Pacific shores.
The syndrome took marine scientists by surprise this summer, when sick and dying sea stars — also known as starfish — appeared in a host of locations between Alaska and southern California. Predatory species were the first to succumb, but now the mysterious ailment is appearing in species once thought to be resistant to its effects.
The progression is predictable: white lesions appear on an animal and become infected. Within hours or days the sea star becomes limp, and its arms may fall off. Necrosis eventually takes over and the animal dies.
“It’s like a zombie wasteland,” says Tucker, who is, like Perlkin, a field technician employed by the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC). “You’ll see detached arms crawling away from their body.”…