A sea cucumber might sound like a refreshing beach snack, but this strange-looking marine animal is found in oceans all over the world and has a particularly unique feeding style.
“Here in British Columbia, sea cucumbers are harvested from the wild by divers. They are hand-picked, dried, and either sold locally or sent abroad,” according to Vancouver Island University.
Twitter user ‘Science girl’ shared this clip from BBC’s Blue Planet II of a sea cucumber expanding its body into a tangle of yellow ‘tube feet’ that sweep the surrounding water and then quickly bring tasty morsels to its mouth.
One Twitter commenter commented “me eating popcorn” on the very relatable appearance of the sea cucumber stuffing its face.
These incredible animals can live in intertidal zones and on the deep seafloor of ocean trenches. They move by “contracting and releasing the muscles that run along their bodies, and stick to objects with their many rows of tube feet,” according to VIU researchers.
Sea cucumbers play an important role as the ‘vacuum cleaners’ in B.C.’s coastal ecosystem, but are unfortunately facing the threat of a lethal illness. A similar wasting disease decimated the west coast sea star population recently, with 96% of sea stars killed off in 2015-2016.
Our province has about a one-third share of the sea cucumber market, so here’s hoping these little guys continue to keep up their healthy appetite!