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Sea Apple - Pseudocolochirus violaceus

It may not seem much an apple, nor a cucumber, but these are colorful sea cucumbers commonly known as Sea Apples belonging to the species Pseudocolochirus violaceus (Holothuroidea - Dendrochirotida - Cucumariidae), which occurs in the Indian Ocean and the western part of the Pacific Ocean.

Sea apples are about 18 cm long. They usually are purple, but also can be blue, red, white, and yellow. Three rows of tube feet run along the bottom side of the animal. The top side has two rows of tube feet as well as small scattered tube feet. The body is curved so that the mouth and anus point upward. They have ten tentacles which are bushy purple to red and have white tips. The pieces of the body wall skeleton are rounded, smooth plates with a few holes.

When relaxed, the normal shape is short and sausage-like as with most other sea cucumbers. When stressed, however, it may inflate itself into a large round ball. 

Sea apples live partly hidden to fully exposed with tentacles expanded, even during the day. They feed continuously, capturing large food particles with outstretched branching tentacles that are lightly coated in mucus. 

These beautiful sea cucumbers unfortunately are harvested for the aquarium trade. Ironically, they do not make good aquarium specimens as they are often toxic to their tank mates. 

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: [Top: ©René Cazalens | Locality: Komodo, Indonesia, 2010] - [Bottom: ©Chuck and Jean | Locality: Manila Ocean Park, Philippines, 2008]

Fascinating Biology Off the Haitian Coast

While exploring the area off of Haiti, Navassa Island has proved to hold a wide range of interesting sea life. From sea cucumbers and sponges, to multicolored fish, the waters here are teeming with life.

The ROVs have been busy collecting rock, coral, water, and push core samples, and even though this journey may be focused on geology, the biology never ceases to fascinate the scientist. Here are some of the creatures we have seen in the last few dives of the Windward Passage leg of the expedition.

(via: Nautilus Live)

images: Sea Urchin, Anemone, Pelagic Swimming Sea Cucumber, Glass Sponge, and Sea Pig (Ocean Exploration Trust)

Ocean Exploration Trust)

Dying For Fijis Sea Cucumbers

by Amy West

What’s it Worth? Deepening pressure on Fiji’s coral protectors.
Redfish, Greenfish, Blackfish.
Pinkfish, Curryfish, Lollyfish.


They sound like Dr. Seuss characters and certainly look like they should be. Yet these sausage-shaped, rubbery animals stippled in fleshy bumps are not fish at all, but an invertebrate in the group that includes sea stars, sea urchins and sand dollars. Sea cucumbers, referred to as “bêche-de-mer” or “trepang” when sold as dried food, are largely motionless creatures, which is why divers scoop hundreds of them up daily to export to Asia. A single high value individual in Fiji can fetch about $80 US, notes one report.
Sea cucumbers are not a new food craze; the Chinese have eaten them at least since the 1600s and sought this delicacy from Fiji since the early 1800s. Today, the increasing market demand and the push to dive deeper for these invertebrates and start new fisheries in other countries have sent stocks declining worldwide. Some have disappeared locally in Pacific Island nations, and in Fiji, divers are actually dying for them…
(read more: Monga Bay)
photographs by Stacy Jupiter
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Pink Spotted Sea Cucumber  

Psolus phantapus (Dendrochirotida - Psolidae) is species of sea cucumber (Class Holothuroidea) widespread in the Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean, on both the European and American side.  This sea cucumber may reach 20 cm length. It has a crown of five pairs of large bushy, orange and white tentacles. Together with the front section of the body, they are covered by red spots.  It is usually found deeper than 20 metres on gravel or muddy habitats. It prefers current exposed location where there are good access to food drifting by. Most of the body is hidden in the ground. It retract its tentacles when disturbed.

References: [1] - [2] - [3]

Photo credit: [Top: ©James Stepen Lynott | Locality: A-Frames, Loch Long, UK] - [Bottom: ©Stig Sarre | Locality: Lovoy, Telemark, Norway]

mad-as-a-marine-biologist

realmonstrosities:

Sea Cucumber anus is among the world’s most fascinating anus!

Sure they poo through it, but they also breathe through it, feed through it and aggressively cough up toxic organs through it.

Sometimes crabs and fish like to pop in for a visit!

No wonder some of them protect themselves with anal dentata.

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