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Swimming Sea Cucumber

Category: General Article

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Summary: Dr, Heather Judkins introduces us to one of the deep-sea’s strangest — yet surprisingly graceful residents — the swimming sea cucumber.

Hello Virtual Science Team!

This is Heather Judkins. Things are going great here in the Gulf. I thought I’d share with you one of my new favorite deep-sea animals. A swimming sea cucumber. This is my first time meeting this odd little creature. What a treat!

It is a graceful swimmer.

We know very little about swimming sea cucumbers. Its jelly-like body is made mostly of water. Swimming sea cucumbers live 1,640 to 19,685 feet (500 to 6000 meters) down. That’s a long long way down, about 65 Statues of Liberty stacked on top of each other!

This swimming sea cucumber finds its food on the ocean floor. The funny things is, all that gracefulness you see when it swims sort of disappears when it eats. It lands on the ocean floor and starts shoveling sand into its mouth with its feeding tentacles. It doesn’t really eat or live on sand. As the sand passes through its system, its intestines filter out the organic material (the bits and pieces of decaying animals, algae and other edibles that sink from above). That’s its food. The sand, well it passes quickly through the sea cucumber’s system and out the other end.

Cousins of the swimming sea cucumber aren’t quite as pretty. They’re just called “sea cucumbers”. They often look like lumpy or warty oddly colored cucumbers (thus the strange common name). That kind of sea cucumber can regurgitate its stomach lining as a defense for escaping predators! The sea cucumber survives, of course. Within 4-6 hours of a sea cucumber doing that, it’s stomach tissue lining has regenerated and it’s back to eating once again!

Would you believe sea cucumbers belong to the same group as sea stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars? It’s true. It is amazing how many different kinds of animals live in the sea.

That’s all for now, team. I will share some more fun pictures and facts soon!

Dr. Heather Judkins, Team Cephalopod and Deep-sea Explorer

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