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Giant California sea cucumber

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Giant California sea cucumber
Seacuke 300Cucumber.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Parastichopus californicus [1]

Parastichopus californicus.jpg
Giant California sea cucumber on the sea floor

The Giant California sea cucumber is a species of sea cucumber known by the scientific name Parastichopus californicus. Is is also known as the Red sea cucumber, the California sea cucumber, and the Giant Red sea cucumber. It is the largest species of the Holothuroidea (sea cucumbers) on the west coast of North America, and ranges from the Gulf of Alaska (USA) to the south at Cedros Island, Baja California (Mexico). They live in both shallow areas and deep water areas, and can crawl approximately 4 meters (13.12 feet) a day.[2].

Body Design

Giant California Sea Cucumber in Puget Sound between Camano Island and Whidbey Island.

Like all Echinoderms, they have a water-vascular system and a 5-part body design. Unique to the sea cucumbers, they have a respiratory system where cucumbers gain oxygen from pumping water in and out of the anus. Also, around the anus there are “rump teeth” which are used in protection from parasitic fish seeking shelter within the sea cucumber’s body by constantly contracting and releasing it's anus through its gas exchange[3]. The mouth and anus are on opposite ends. It reaches a maximum of 50cm (about 19.7 inches) and has an average wet weight of 225-250 grams (about 8- 8.8 ounces) with the maximum weight being 500 grams (about 17.6 ounces).In addition when threatened the sea cucumber spits it's internal substances, such as non-essential organs out of its anus and the substances stick to the potential predator. These internal substances are soon regenerated within the sea cucumber's body.[4].

However it should be known that these creatures come in all shapes and sizes, and can range from skinny and small to the maximum in weight and size. Although the body looks spiky it's body is actually soft and squishy. The adults are usually spotted or smeared brown while juveniles are a solid red or brown or on rare occasions white. Their bodies are elongated and cylindrical with slightly thinner ends. The dorsal (back) side is covered by approximately 40 large papillae and the ventral (abdominal area) side is covered with rows of tube feet. Tube feet are its source of locomotion. The Giant California sea cucumber has 20 feeding tentacles and a large amount of mucus to capture particles of bacteria and fungi. There are both male and female Giant California sea cucumbers although there are no external differences pertaining to specific genders. [5].

Sea cucumbers have body walls made of catch collagen (a tissue controlled by neurological pulses). With this the sea cucumber can loosen and tighten itself without damaging any of its tissue. So, when threatened, they can liquefy themselves, giving them the ability to squeeze into tight holes or small spaces. Also to secure their safety when they are hiding, they can join up all their collagen and become a solid being.[6]

Life Cycle

The Giant California sea cucumber may produce one of two different types of eggs. They may lay yolk-filled eggs that hatch directly into the cucumbers (no larval stage). The second type is laying multiple small eggs that would be later fertilized by males in the water; these hatch into larvae. [7]Spawning occurs from spring through all of summer. They breed externally, the female releasing eggs and the male excreting semen into the water that fertilizes the eggs.[8]They have consistent sized “spikes”, its scientific name being conical papillae, during the course of their lives. However the younger cucumbers are smaller and lighter in color. The Giant California sea cucumber reaches maturity around the age of four years. This is the point in which they develop into different sexes. [9]

Ecology

Parastichopus californicus (Giant California Sea Cucumber)at low tide at Sarotoga Passage, In Pudget Sound Bay.

A Giant California sea cucumber’s diet consists of material such as fungi and bacteria; generally in sediment. Larvae eat plankton until they settle on the bottom of the sea floor. [10] The sea cucumber feeds in two ways: direct deposit feeding as well as suspension feeding. Direct deposit feeding is where they rake their tube feet upon the ocean floor to pick up food. The second method is where they use their buccal (of or relating to the area of the mouth) tentacles to get particles out of the water. [11] The sea cucumber’s predators, though it has been debated as to whether they have any, would be the sunflower stars, brittle stars and humans. They're relatives are sea stars, brittle stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars. The one characteristic they all share is that they all crawl slowly on the ocean floor. Humans harvest these sea cucumbers as a means of food, generally for Asian markets and Alaska.[12] The substance used as means of food is the muscles along the inside of the body wall. [13] This has contributed to a new chain within the fishing industry. [14]

Ways Society uses Sea Cucumbers

Sea cucumbers have been substantial within the medical field. They have/are being used as treatment for arthritis and connective tissue disorders, muscular-skeletal diseases (Examples: rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis), fatigue, urinary problems (specifically for kidneys), impotence, cleansing the blood, and relieve to constipation.[15] Sea cucumbers are rich in protein, vitamins A, C, B-1, B-2, B-3, iron, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. They also contain mucopolysaccharides (complex polysaccharides containing an amino group; occurs chiefly as components of connective tissue), saponins (any of the class of steroid and terpenoid glycosides typified by this, examples of which are used in detergents and foam fire extinguishers) and fatty acid. Like tofu, sea cucumbers are flavorless and is added in many dishes to add these nutrients. [16] Sea cucumbers are used in creams, oil, makeup[17], as well as cosmetic procedures such as face lifts or lip injections.[18] And like all essence of life, the Giant California sea cucumber helps us in the discovery of God's design.

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