Sea cucumbers are echinoderms—like starfish and sea urchins. There are some 1,250 known species, and many of these animals are indeed shaped like soft-bodied cucumbers. All sea cucumbers are ocean dwellers, though some inhabit the shallows and others live in the deep ocean. They live on or near the ocean floor—sometimes partially buried beneath it.
Sea cucumbers feed on tiny particles like algae, minute aquatic animals, or waste materials, which they gather in with 8 to 30 tube feet that look like tentacles surrounding their mouths. The animals break down these particles into even smaller pieces, which become fodder for bacteria, and thus recycle them back into the ocean ecosystem. Earthworms perform a similar function in terrestrial ecosystems…
While exploring the debris slope of the collapsed side of the underwater volcano Kick’em Jenny near Grenada in the Caribbean, the Nautilus expedition crew had a surprising find of a large cold methane seep and rich biology around it. Here are a few of the amazing creatures we spotted there and more can be found at http://www.nautiluslive.org.
Shovelnose Chimera, swimming sea cucumber, deep sea octopus, unidentified species of Snailfish.
…a species of synaptid sea cucumber that is widely distributed throughout the Indo-Pacific. Like other synaptids this species lacks tube feet, retractor muscles and tentacle ampullae it moves by waves of peristaltic contractions. E. godeffroyi is benthic and a deposit feeder, feeding on particles suspended in soil.
Benthothuria funebris is a deep sea benthic Holothurian (sea cucumber) that is known to cast itself into the water column with a vigrorous wriggling undulation, and swim away to escape predators. They are found in the deep sea along the Mid Atlantic Ridge from the Azores to southern Iceland, and along the coast of Mauritania in western Africa. Little is known of their natural history and ecology.
Check out this video footage of a sea cucumber (Enypniastes sp.) swimming in near-freezing Indonesian waters at a depth of approximately 3,200 meters. You can see his insides!!
The footage was captured by the Little Hercules remotely operated vehicle during a dive from NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer during the Indonesia-USA Deep-Sea Exploration of the Sangihe Talaud Region 2010 Expedition.
California Sea Cucumber (Parastichopus californicus)
… is the largest sea cucumber species along the Pacific Northwest coast. The species feeds on organic detritus and small organisms, which it ingests with bottom sediments. The primary predators of P. californicus (also known as are the sea stars Pycnopodia helianthoides and Solaster endeca, but the species is also occasionally eaten by sea otters and man.
Unlike many tropical sea cucumbers, P. californicus does not store substances toxic to predators. The hindgut bears a pair of highly branched diverticula, which project into the coelomic cavity of the body and serve as “water lungs”. Oxygenated water is pumped into these respiratory trees in severa successive inhalations and then expelled in one powerful exhalation.
Breeding occurs in the summer. Development is indirect. The sperm have spherical heads and an unusually low DNA content. The fertilized eggs develop into auricularia larvae which metamorphose into doliolaria larva which settle. The pelagic phase lasts from 7 to 13 weeks in the laboratory.
Populations of P. californicus in the Puget Sound eviscerate (photo) during October and November and then regenerate new sets of organs. Evisceration may also occur if the animals are kept in warm or stale water. The scale worm Arctonoe pulchra may occur as a commensal on P. californicus.
A 5 cm-long scaleworm on the underside of a 2 ft-long holothurian (sea cucumber) at 1,526 m. Image captured by the Little Hercules remotely operated vehicle on a site referred to as ‘Baruna Jaya IV - Site 1’ on August 1, 2010.
Quest For Illegal Sea Harvest Divides Community in Mexico
by Karla Zabludovsky
DZILAM DE BRAVO, Mexico — Whispers of high-speed boat chases, harpoon battles on the open sea and divers who dived deep and never re-emerged come and go around here like an afternoon gale.
What has wrapped this village in such hostility?
The spiky, sluglike marine animals are bottom feeders that are not even consumed in Mexico, but they are a highly prized delicacy half a world away, in China, setting off a maritime gold rush up and down the Yucatán Peninsula…
(read more: NY TImes) (photo: Adriana Zehbrauskas)
Most kindergarteners can tell you that an animal eats with its mouth, not its butt.
One species of sea cucumber, however, didn’t appear to get the memo: Scientists have discovered that the giant California sea cucumber (Parastichopus californicus) actually uses its anus as a second mouth.
Scientists already knew that the marine invertebrate, which lives in the shallow ocean waters off the Pacific coast of North America, breathes with its butt. Because they don’t have lungs, sea cucumbers rely on respiratory trees, a set of long tubes running down either side of the body with a lot of different branches. P. californicus is shaped like a hollow tube, with a mouth at one end and its anus at the other.
The respiratory trees receive oxygen when water is pumped through their anus using the muscles of their cloaca, an opening at the end of the intestinal tract.The 20 in. long (50-cm-long) animal is no slouch: It can pump 3.5 to 4 cups of water per hour through its anus, transferring the oxygen from the water into its respiratory trees, which then oxygenates its cells…
The velvety red of a drifting jelly, the brick red of a vampire squid…many deep-sea creatures exhibit the colors of Valentine’s Day. When pursuing the prey object of their desire, deep-sea creatures may use red as camouflage. Wavelengths of light in the red end of the visible spectrum are preferentially absorbed by seawater, and therefore red colors appear black in the deep sea. Red animals disappear into the darkness, enabling them to ambush unsuspecting prey or avoid a hungry predator.
The bright red lights you can see in some of the clips (e.g., the sea star at 01:22) are lasers from MBARI’s remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and used to estimate sizes. The lasers are 29 cm apart.
Check out thistranslucent holothurian (sea cucumber)…
You can actually see its gut through its transparent body wall. Sea cukes feed by using their tentacles to trap particles in the water column. This specimen was found in the deep sea, on the Mid Cayman Ridge in the Caribbean Sea.
Whale skeleton being colonized and eaten by by critters on the seafloor of Monterey canyon. In this scene one can see dozens of Sea Pigs (Scotoplanes sp.), a kind of deep sea sea cucumber with little tentacles.