Friday, January 27, 2012

The Squishy Sea Cucumber!

Have you ever heard of a Sea Cucumber before? If not, then you might be surprised at how cute and cool this animal is, even though at first it seems to just be a stationary log! I first learned about Sea Cucumbers when I studied Invertebrates (a.k.a. animals without backbones) at university. Then, in the Summer of 2010 I started working at the Ocean Sciences Centre as an Interpreter of a touch tank, which means that I taught people about local ocean animals through a live display.

A sample of the cool animals in the touch tank
The animals were collected from the shore around the Ocean Sciences Centre, and then returned to the ocean in September, when the touch tank was put away until the following Summer. It was really fun to work at the touch tank, although the water was really cold, so sometimes my hands would go red and numb if I played with the animals too much!

Coral, Sea Cucumber, and Sea Stars

In the middle of this photo is a Sea Cucumber (the long, black, cylinder shaped animal). Without meeting this animal, it's hard to tell what it is or how it survives, but once you get up close you discover some really cool features! First of all, Sea Cucumbers are really soft and squishy. They are filled with lots of water and can change their body shape really easily. For example, if a Sea Cucumber wanted to fit into a tiny hole in a rock, it could squish its body into a small, thin shape and fit through!

In this photo, you can see the underside of the Sea Cucumber and see how it has changed it shape and size. The orange lines or dots that you can see are its feet! They are tiny "tube" feet, which means they can suction onto objects, like rocks, to walk along the sea floor.

Sea Cucumbers have many ways of keeping predators away from them. Sometimes, when vistors to the touch tank picked up a Sea Cucumber, it would squirt out water to make itself look deflated and confuse them into thinking it was dead. Most people jumped in surprise and thought that the animal was peeing on them! Some Sea Cucumbers also have a deadly chemical that they can squirt out (sort of like squid!) to kill any animals trying to eat them.

To eat, these cute squishy animals have a ring of tentacles (sort of like fingers) around their heads. These tentacles are sticky and sometimes a Sea Cucumber will point them up in the water and catch little bits of food that float by. They also like digging in the sand to find little food pieces. Their mouth is in the middle of the ring of tentacles.

Sea Cucumbers can be all sorts of different colors and patterns, like this cool bright blue one. I worked with animals that were dark black, with grey bellies, and orange tube feet.

P.S.: I've added a whole bunch of updates in the past few weeks: links to cute and fun games, craft tutorials (i.e. origami animal bookmarks, jellyfish mobile, zoo-themed board game), and a brand new Video page. Click on the pages above!

1 comment:

  1. Ohhh cute, I love those lovely ugly animals =3 I wish I could have one at home !!!



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