Mar 13, 2008: Sea Cucumbers. Even wierder than moon snails.

Tideflat Critters

Here are some facts you probably didn't know about sea cucumbers:
  1. They breathe through their anus.
  2. They have a compound in their skin called catch collagen that allows them to liquefy or melt on command. They use this skill to escape into small, safe crevices to evade predators.
  3. They have an escalating response to stress. If you poke them with a stick, or hold them in your hand, they'll probably goopify. If you continue to mess with them they may puke their guts out, or eviscerate themselves. If you really, really bother a sea cucumber, it will inhale a bunch of water through its anus and then rupture its hind end to expel a bunch of noxious chemicals. When this happens in an aquarium it can kill all the tank mates-- something aquarium keepers call a "cuke nuke."
Step 1: Goopification
Sea cucumbers, together with sea stars and sea urchins, are echinoderms. There are 900 known species of cucumber; the one pictured here is Parastichopus californicus, or the California Sea Cucumber. It's supposed to be nocturnal, but we found two cucumbers passing a nuit blanche on a low tide in February. When we found the first one, Dave, an oyster picker who's worked on the Hama Hama tideflats for over a decade, said it was the first cucumber he'd ever seen on the beach. So we felt really good about finding another one a couple hundred yards away from the first.
Sea cucumbers are very edible. The 5 longitudinal muscles in the cucumber are considered a delicacy. But they were over harvested a couple of decades ago in the Canal, and are only now making a comeback. So I'm not going to post any sea cucumber recipes. They eat passing plankton and plant and animal detritus off the sea floor, and are important ecologically.
sea cucumber
Don't mess with the cucumber.

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  • Michelle on

    I am crazy about sea cucumbers. They’re the wildest looking things ever. I think they should go one what not to wear and that they’d be put on lost of structured tops and belts that would define thier waists.

    LOVE this blog!

  • Oyster Fan on

    Thanks Sonja!

  • sonja on

    this is sooooo cool! ii’ve been checking it out when i need a break from homework. think i’ll share it with my little bro and sis – they will love it.

  • Professional Oyster Pickers Development Day on

    […] Jose with a giant, ticked-off sea cucumber: […]

  • Oyster Fan on

    Halloween, 2008: Attack of the Wild Sea Cucumbers??

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