A Disgusting and Desperate Defense

Sea cucumbers have one of the more unusual, and exciting, defense mechanisms found in the ocean’s ecosystem. When threatened by predators, like sea otters, crabs, and starfish, certain types of sea cucumbers can expel internal organs. This allows for the desperate prey to escape while the predator is busy devouring the white goo left behind. These organs usually regrow within a few weeks of being discharged.

Another defense that is activated when disturbed is to expose a “skeletal, hook-like structure” (NWF) that makes it harder for the predator to eat the sea cucumber. Although less exciting for an observer, this defense works by giving the predator the memory of a meal they may not wish to repeat, therefore saving other sea cucumbers from the same fate.

These invertebrates have a long, almost cucumber-shaped body (hence the name) and feet that appear to be short tentacles. They feed using their “feet” near their mouth to eat. Sea cucumbers are omnivores and eat waste particles, small aquatic invertebrates, and algae. They almost look like some play-doh creation that came to life. To me, sea cucumbers are one of the stranger animals in Puget Sound, but that’s what makes them so amazing!

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Art and Post by Phoebe E

Categories Science

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