Mar 23, 2008

Cucumber Viscera

You won't find the sea cucumber in your average side salad, body lotion, or sliced up and placed over your eyes in a salon. No, this echinoderm (related to the sea star and sea urchin) has other charms.

This creature first captured my attention as a boy when I found out that they disgorge their viscera (puke up their guts, literally) when threatened as a means of distracting (and possibly harming) their would-be prey. For years I wanted one as a pet, if for no other reason than to be able to put sea cucumber innards in my sisters' beds. But it was not meant to be. Such are the disappointments of a big brother.

I seem to recall that smaller varieties of the sea cucumber (there are ~1,250 species of them) can be kept in saltwater aquariums. You just better hope that they don't pull their evisceration stunt. The goop they upchuck is toxic and will kill your livestock off.

Thanks for the photo, Ida. I'm going to pass on a salad today.

Photo source: National Geographic


jynxkat said...

my biology teacher had a student who stuck one of these in his shorts and couldn't get it out again- they have sucker feet- they took him to the hospital where he was shaved and such to get the critter off- she also had a different student who got a starfish stuck to his head.

Jade said...

I hate a "pretty" pink one in one of my salt water tanks. They're really neat to watch!

Anonymous said...

@ jynxkat-

I'm guessing the first one was going for the "hey, is that a sea cucumber in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?" That's terrifically funny. Are we talking HS or college biology? (I'd like to think college students would have enough sense not to stick echinoderms to themselves ANYWHERE, but...)

Anonymous said...

There was a cutesy japanese comic where a bunch of girls went to the beach, and the spacey one thought it was great fun to throw sea cucumbers at her friends. Nothing awful happened, but I was thinking "shouldn't those be spewing their guts at those girls right now?"

Anonymous said...

good thing sea cucumbers were'nt given and abundance of brains. if i were a sea cucumber and i instinctively heaved up my own guts, i think i'd be more terrified at seeing my own innards coming out of my mouth than the creature attacking me!