On Exhibit: Giant Pacific Octopus
plant and animal scraps, small organisms
to 16 inches (40 cm) long
other sea cucumbers; sea stars; sea urchins; sand dollars
seafloor (100-1,300 feet, or 30-400 m)
Sea cucumbers are soft-bodied and live at all ocean depths, from the shallows to the abyss.
Most sea cucumbers move slowly by using their tiny tube feet, but some also have a faster escape response—they swim by flexing their bodies and inching along the seafloor.
As a deep sea cucumber crawls across the seafloor, mud and tiny pieces of fallen food cling to its sticky tentacles. The cucumber stuffs those coated tentacles into its mouth and cleans them off—devouring the muddy mixture and digesting the edible scraps.
Anything that finds its way into the ocean, whether it's tossed away as trash, washes off a beach or falls off a boat, may eventually make its way to the deep sea. It's important to realize that the deep sea is not so far away that it's beyond the reach of human activities. Living creatures in the deep are affected by what we do at the surface.
Like other sea cucumbers, the Johnson's sea cucumber can shed its internal organs (eviscerate) when attacked by a predator. The sticky organs may entangle and distract the predator, and may provide a meal while the cucumber escapes. The shed organs soon grow back.