The  sea cucumber, Oneirophanta mutabilis, is found on the seafloor at depths ranging from 1,800 - 6,000 m (over 19,000 ft). 
It was first described by the Swedish zoologist Hjalmar Théel in 1879, being one of the many deep sea animals discovered during the Challenger expedition of 1872–1876. The scientists on the Challenger expedition would probably be in awe to see an image like this of this species in its habitat. Modern taxonomists have split the species into two sub-species that are very difficult to distinguished from images alone. Thanks to submersibles like MBARI’s ROVs, we have beautiful images of many deep-sea animals that were originally described based on trawled specimens that were often damaged during collection.
(via: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)

The sea cucumber, Oneirophanta mutabilis, is found on the seafloor at depths ranging from 1,800 - 6,000 m (over 19,000 ft).

It was first described by the Swedish zoologist Hjalmar Théel in 1879, being one of the many deep sea animals discovered during the Challenger expedition of 1872–1876. The scientists on the Challenger expedition would probably be in awe to see an image like this of this species in its habitat. Modern taxonomists have split the species into two sub-species that are very difficult to distinguished from images alone. Thanks to submersibles like MBARI’s ROVs, we have beautiful images of many deep-sea animals that were originally described based on trawled specimens that were often damaged during collection.

(via: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute)

Why You Should Care That Sea Cucumbers Are Going Extinct

by Jason G. Goldman

Sea cucumbers are in trouble. Everyone knows about the problems that elephants and rhinos face due to poaching, that dolphins face due to drive hunts, and that sharks face when overzealous governments try to convince their constituents that they’re helping them avoid shark attacks. Sea cucumbers may not be as charismatic as their megafaunal counterparts, but they actually provide an important service for reef ecosystems.

They help to keep the sand in reef lagoons and seagrass beds fresh by turning them over, and by feeding on the dead organic matter that’s mixed in with the sand, the nutrients they excrete can re-enter the biological web by algae and coral. Without the sea cucumbers, that sort of nutrient recycling could not occur. It’s also thought that sea cucumbers help to protect reefs from damage due to ocean acidification. Feeding on reef sand appears to increase the alkalinity of the surrounding seawater.

The problem, according to a study conducted by Steven Purcell and Beth Polidoro, is that sea cucumbers are considered a luxury snack. As they explain at The Conversation, dried-out versions of the tropical species retail between $10 and $600 per kilogram in Hong Kong and on mainland China. There’s actually one species that is sold for $3000 per kilo, dried. Sea cucumbers are thought of as “culinary delicacies,” and often adorn the buffets of festival meals and are served at formal dinners…

(read more: animals.io9)

Absurd Creature of the Week:  The Pearlfish
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…
(read more: Wired Science)
images: Daniel Bay and Oceans IQ

Absurd Creature of the Week:  The Pearlfish

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…

(read more: Wired Science)

images: Daniel Bay and Oceans IQ

Songs for Unusual Creatures: The Sea Pig

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 …

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments. And subscribe to the channel for new animals and songs every other week. (It’s free!)

Host: Michael Hearst
Producer: Joe Beshenkovsky & Michael Hearst

In association with PBS Digital Studios

For more about Songs for Unusual Creatures, including a book and CD:
http://www.unusualcreatures.com

Sea Cucumbers Are Animals, Not Vegetables…
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…
(read more: NOAA National Ocean Service)
photo: NOAA

Sea Cucumbers Are Animals, Not Vegetables…

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…

(read more: NOAA National Ocean Service)

photo: NOAA

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. 
Learn more: NOAA Ocean Explorer

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.

Learn more: NOAA Ocean Explorer

scienceyoucanlove

scienceyoucanlove:

Sea Cucumbers

 class Holothuroidea

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…

read more: National Geographic

Surprise Finds on Kick’em

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.

astronomy-to-zoology

astronomy-to-zoology:

Lion’s Paw Sea Cucumber (Euapta godeffroyi)

…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.

Classification

Animalia-Echinodermata-Holothuroidea-Apodida-Synaptidae-Euapta-E. godeffroyi

Images: Mark Rosenstein and Francois Michonneau

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.

photos by NOAA Ocean Explorer and SERPENT Project

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.

(Source: Ocean Explorer)

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. 
More detail from Invertebrates of the Salish Sea: http://eol.org/pages/597386 (photo Ken-ichi Ueda via iNaturalist)
(via: EOL)

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.

More detail from Invertebrates of the Salish Sea: http://eol.org/pages/597386

(photo Ken-ichi Ueda via iNaturalist)

(via: EOL)