Tag Archives: Sea Cucumber

Whose Scat Is That?

scatIn the relaxed camp atmosphere it’s almost too easy to find yourself swaying with the palm trees, entranced in the soothing sounds of the ocean while locked in a daze at the clouds rolling overhead but today we are talking all things scat. Surrounded by the beauty in nature, you’re feeling endlessly grateful for the present day at Fox Landing, until one fateful step when you feel an all too familiar squish beneath your sandal. You know it’s not the firm dirt path, you’ve stepped right into a mountain of fox feces! We share a home with a variety of organisms; terrestrial, marine, native or not, every animal inhabiting Catalina Island eats, sleeps, and poops here, just like us! Scat is animal feces or dropping and based on the animal, scat will differ in size, shape, color, consistency, and contents. Scat can be used to identify, learn about, and track animals. Safety first: don’t touch scat…without gloves on!

The Santa Catalina Island Fox, a species of Channel Island fox, can be found roaming our cove. Most often seen at night attempting to break into a trash can or scurrying away from the slightest noise. Their diet consists of mice, birds, eggs, fruit, berries, insects, and for some, anything they are capable of scavenging from humans (Leave no trace!). Fox poop is smelly, small and tubular or log shaped. Droppings are often left in high areas, as a way to mark territory. It is not unusual to find fox feces at the tops of staircases or on rock walls around camp.

scat sea cucumberA number of animals have been introduced by humans to Catalina. Included in these non-native species are the herbivorous American Bison and Mule Deer who spend their time grazing the island. Bison consume mostly grasses, herbs, and shrubs. They leave the largest brown poop patties I have ever seen while traversing the mountainsides. Mule deer will graze grasses and herbs as well as eat berries or fruits if they can find any. When the urge becomes too great, a standing mule deer will drop dozens of small, round, or bean shaped pellets in a single release of solid waste.

Within our ocean and tanks marine organisms also experience the pleasure of excreting their waste. The sea hare and sea cucumber are among some of our greatest producers of scat. A Sea Hare is a squishy bodied invertebrate in the phylum Mollusca. Feasting daily on different species of algae and expelling small, brown-green seed shaped waste throughout our touch tank, shark tank, and octopus tank. Plankton living in the sand or floating in the water column are no match for a hungry sea cucumber. This invertebrate, of the phylum Echinodermata, leaves in its wake a pile of long log shaped stool. Although this camouflaged waste blends in with the sand, our team of aquarists are filled with joy when they spot it and siphon it out of the touch tank.

Sources:

https://www.catalinaconservancy.org/index.php?s=portal

http://icwdm.org/inspection/Scat1.aspx

https://www.pe.com/2015/08/27/catalina-island-man-hospitalized-in-bison-attack/

https://www.bensound.com/royalty-free-music/jazz

The Spineless Gutless Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers: those cute log-like animals munching their way along the sea floor. These cylindric invertebrates are part of the phylum Echinodermata which translates to “spiny skin”.

Echinodermata is a completely marine based phylum that includes sea stars, sea urchins and of course, the lovable sea cucumbers. Most days you can find innocent sea cucumbers minding their own business and sucking up sand and mud like a vacuum. The sea cucumber sifts through and feeds on the organic pieces hidden in the sediment. If you have visited CIMI, you may have had the pleasure of holding a sea cucumber that can be found in our cove, Parasichopus californicus, or the warty sea cucumber. A muddy orange-brown color, these guys are named after the wart like bumps that cover their body.

Spineless Sea Cucumber

Sea cucumbers, like the warty sea cucumber, are eaten by a number of different organisms. Predators include types of crabs, fish, sea stars and sometimes sea turtles. How do these spineless logs defend themselves against predators? They can not move very fast, so a quick escape is rarely an option. Sea Cucumbers have evolved a very interesting and gross way to escape possible death by crab or fish. Evisceration!

Spineless Sea Cucumber 2

Evisceration basically means exploding guts. The root word in eviseration, “visera” means “intestines”. When a sea cucumber feels threatened it can spew its intestines and other internal organs at a predator. The predator is distracted by the free snack, allowing the sea cucumber to inch away. Evisceration begins when the attatchment tissues that hold the internal organs, like the intestines or respratory gills, soften. If you’ve ever touched a sea cucumber you’ll have noticed that its body toughens and becomes rigid. Left alone it will losen up and soften again. Like many echinoderms, sea cucumbers can toughen or soften their body texture at will. Once the attachment tissue softens and becomes almost liquidfied, spots on the body where the organs will soon spew out begin to soften too. Depending on the species, the evisteration point can be on the anterior (front) or the posterior (back) end of the sea cucumber. Softening takes between one to three minutes. The sea cucumber muscles contract and expell the internal organs! It can take between 20 minutes to 12 hours to complete the process of eviseration. Now that the sea cuumber has rid itself of most its organs and escaped being eaten, it must begin to regenerate. Regenerating its interal organs can take as long as 145 days and as short as 7 days. It depends on the species, age of the organism and the time of year.

Although evisceration is often associated with defense and escape, this is not always the case. It depends on the species of sea cucumber. Some sepecies, like the warty sea cucumber, eviserate seasonally to get rid of excess waste. In addition, during food shortages, sea cucumbers have been know to eviserate. It is actually a larger metabolic load or energy drain on the sea cucumber to hold onto excess waste than to eviserate and regenerate.

Sea cucumbers are pretty amazing! They can live without their internal organs for weeks and spew their guts at predators. They might be gutless at times, and spineless, but they got a lot of spunk for an animal named after a cucumber.

Sources:

http://echinoblog.blogspot.com/2012/01/sea-cucumber-evisceration-defense.html

http://www.asnailsodyssey.com/LEARNABOUT/CUCUMBER/cucuEvis.php

Photo:

Leopard sea Cucumber – http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2016/05/10/how-this-fish-survives-in-a-sea-cucumbers-bum/

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We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. Catalina Island Marine Institute is a hands-on marine science program with an emphasis on ocean exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and ocean happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree usually in marine science or related subjects. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science and ocean information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.cimi.org for additional information. Happy Reading!

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