The sea cucumber has a worm-like body that lays parallel to the ocean's floor. It is an elongate cylinder with a mouth and anus on opposing sides. The external surface is very soft because it is an invertebrate. It also has five rows of tube feet that are all along the length of their body. Around the mouth there can be more than 10 appendages, branched, oral tentacles, and feet that can be on all sides.
The internal structure of sea cucumbers consists of an alimentary canal, which is a long tube that runs from the mouth of the sea cucumber at the forward end to the anus which is at the posterior end of the sea cucumber. The posterior end of the sea cucumber is enlarged and becomes narrower towards the anterior end.
Sea cucumbers reproduce with organs consisting of a gonad that opens to the outside of the dorsal surface either within the ring of oral tendrils or back to it. Sea Cucumbers usually have separate sexes, however certain hermaphrodites do occur. Several species carry the eggs and young in pouches. Cucumbers, like all other echinoderms, have great regenerative powers. They are able to regenerate lost parts; some can break themselves in two, each half a new animal.
Sea cucumbers are found in most oceans and in all depths. Some move over the bottom of the sea, some swallow sand and or mud and others catch small organisms. Most of the sea cucumbers live near rocks, corals or sea weeds. Although most of the sea cucumbers live among the sea grasses some do live in the mud or in the sand.
The ocean is one big food chain, and the Sea cucumbers are both predator and prey in this complicated cycle. However, the principal predators for sea cucumbers are sea stars and fish. Various species have different methods of protections. The most interesting method is the ability of Sea Cucumbers to eviscerate (or expel) their organs. This distracts their predator and enables them to swim to freedom. Other methods of protection includes curling up and rolling away, living in groups (safety in numbers) in hope that their neighbor will be eaten and not them, and the main method is simply hiding. Also, one tropical variety eject sticky tubules to repel predators.
What most people don't know is that sea cucumbers can be eaten just like those in our refrigerators. Sea Cucumbers are used in many Asian dishes from the Far East and are even considered delicacies. Sea Cucumbers are also eaten by the first nations on the B.C. coast.
The many varieties and species of Sea Cucumbers around the world are an essential part of the ecosystem of the ocean. They are both predators and prey to many different organisms. Their main food source is plankton, incredibly small drifting organisms in the sea. They also provide food for certain Sea Stars. Because they are a living animal, they are part of the ecosystem and will become a food source one way or another. The most fascinating characteristic of the sea cucumber is their ability to eviscerate their guts, thus providing food for their predators while still being able to survive themselves. The ability to provide food for other organisms labels the Sea Cucumber as a provider in their marine environment.
Sea cucumber, a relative of the sea urchin and sea star, normally live peaceful lives on the ocean floor. When a sea cucumber senses danger, however, it frightens off predators by expelling its entrails. But no amount of entrails expelling will ward off the biggest threat this echinoderm now faces: human predation for food consumption.