The sea cucumber is the broad category for about 1,200 echinoderm species within class Holothuroidea. Most inhabit the benthic zone of the world’s oceans, scavenging detritus from the sea floor and eating tiny algae particles. Like all members of phylum Echinodermata, sea cucumbers have an endoskeleton just below the skin. Oh – and when threatened, many a sea cucumber will shoot its organs out of its anus. In shallow water, they can form dense populations and comprise most of an ecosystem’s biomass. They sometimes send their own innards shooting out their anuses. The top skin covers microscopic pieces of skeleton called spicules. Just to make sure you got this, they defend themselves by defecating their own internal organs. And how they came up with this strategy is anyone’s guess.
It’s all you, dude.
Choosing to defecate its own organs as a defense technique is surprising and would appear, prima facie, to be much less useful than, say, actually doing something. Apparently the goal is to make a predator, no matter how famished, sick to its stomach and lose its appetite. Failing that, shooting its very own guts out of its very own anus is just so pathetic that even the hardest of predatory fish will give it an awkward pat on the back before making up an excuse to just get the hell out of there.
I’m gonna go.
Interestingly, the blood of sea cucumbers is yellow in color because as much as ten percent of its blood cell pigment is vanadium.* This was discovered when a scientist startled a sea cucumber and got an unexpected view of its entire insides.
The sea cucumber can also reproduce both sexually and asexually. However, given that its one and only trick is defecating its innards, we’re guessing it’s mostly asexual.
As with all disgusting ocean creatures, the sea cucumber is considered a delicacy in Asia. And if you happen to get one that just shot its guts out its anus – well, you can imagine the excitement.
Oh it’s disgusting and horrible? I’ll take three.
Basically, the sea cucumber digs around looking for dirt to eat, and when something bothers it, it shoots its guts out. It’s like if you spent your life lying in the grass at a park looking for leftover chips to eat, and when the cops came to ask you what you were doing you promptly started kicking yourself in the crotch and vomiting up kidneys. Actually, that would probably work pretty well. But good luck finding work after that.
*Vanabins are a group of proteins that bind the metal vanadium; the few organisms that have vanabins in their blood are able to bind vanadium at levels 100 times that of seawater. Currently it is a mystery as to exactly why sea cucumbers and other organisms collect vanadium. Another mystery is why sea cucumbers shoot their organs from their anuses.