Sunday, June 8, 2014

Sea cucumber feeding: finger lickin' good

Just before leaving for this island last month, I moved all our teaching organisms out of Bowdoin's Marine Lab and into my tanks on campus.  That meant I spent some quality time out there, moving animals and cleaning tanks.  I get easily distracted from this work, and spent quite a lot of time observing our collection of sea cucumbers (Cucumaria frondosa).  They were busily feeding away.  Cucumaria, an echinoderm like seastars and sea urchins, is a suspension feeder; with sticky tentacles (frond-like; hence the name) that it holds out in the water column.  Plankton sticks to these tentacles, then the cucumbers curl up the fronds and roll them into their mouth, where the plankton is transferred to their digestive tract.  It looks like they"re licking their fingers.

I was able to get some great video of one feeding:

Pretty amazing, huh?  Sometimes I find the diversity of life, and many strategies for making a living amazing. What a wonderful world.

All is well on the island, and since it's Sunday, most of us are taking it easy, although many projects can't have a whole day off.  The sun is out though, and the fog has cleared -- for now.

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