Stiff-Footed Sea Cucumber
Friday Harbor Marine Laboratories, University of Washington
San Juan Island, Washington
Archival Pigment Print
The mouths of almost all sea cucumbers are encircled by a ring of feeding tentacles, which they use to collect food particles either from rocks and sand or from the water column. This one eats plankton and is usually found under rocks with only the finely branched tentacles exposed. Like many cucumbers, the stiff-footed sea cucumber has a habit of periodically “eviscerating”: tossing out most of its insides (and even losing its tentacles), and then spending two to four weeks regenerating them all. One study conducted in British Columbia found that this habit is seasonal in this species, with the majority of individuals eviscerating during the fall. The researchers speculated that the process functions to purge the cucumbers of chemical wastes that accumulate during the summer feeding season.