There are some 1000 over species of sea cucumbers and most of them are shaped like soft bodied cucumbers, thereby giving them their name of sea cucumbers. Around the Gili Islands ,Indonesiayou will see for sure different kind of sea cucumbers. On everey divesite around Lombok they are there.
All of them are ocean floor dwellers, with many of them living in extremely deep waters. In fact, sea cucumbers form up to 80% of the entire animal mass that occupy the deep ocean floor.
Sea cucumbers feed on tiny little particles; some of them are filter feeders, filtering tiny particles in the moving water with their feathery feelers and some of them clean sand particles of any algae or organic material for food and these are further digested by bacteria in its gut to recycle nutrients back into the sea when the sea cucumber excretes them.
There are few marine animals that feed on sea cucumbers, particularly since almost all sea cucumbers have some form of chemical defence that makes them disgusting to their predators and sometimes dangerous as well.
However, that didn’t prevent humans from becoming the single largest predator of sea cucumbers. In fact, some species of sea cucumbers have been so over harvested by humans that they face dwindling populations and some becoming endangered even.
Sea cucumbers can reproduce very well; even in the absence of other sea cucumbers, they can reproduce asexually. In places where human activity has not impacted sea cucumber populations, sea cucumbers flourish, especially in the deep oceans. Sea cucumbers usually reproduce sexually though, but they do so by releasing their sperm and eggs into the water in large quantities as do most echinoderms.
The egg is fertilized when it meets a sperm in the water, but in certain species, fertilized eggs are taken into an adult sea cucumber body and develops within it. When the young sea cucumber grows large enough, they are expelled from the adult.
Sea cucumbers are much more motile then their relatives the sea urchins and starfishes, so most people can appreciate that they are animals rather than plants. But like their relatives, sea cucumbers don’t have a brain and they actually have a pentagonal symmetry. It sure doesn’t look that way, but that is why sea cucumbers are a special lot among their family.
Like its relatives the starfish and the sea urchins, sea cucumbers are a subject of much interest, from its strange anatomy to its legendary healing powers.
Many of these sea cucumber facts are so fascinating that they border on the edge of myth and legends. However, some of these “myth” do have their truths or at least half truths contained within them.
Sea cucumbers are said to be hollow tubes without substance inside, they can squeeze through holes smaller than themselves by turning into liquid and reforming again. They can also live without any organs and reproduce asexually by themselves.
In reading the above, one would find it hard to believe that sea cucumbers are actual living creatures. So how much of it is true?
Sea Cucumbers do not have a Brain
Sea cucumbers and starfishes belong to the same class of organisms known as Echinoderms. Like starfishes, sea cucumbers do not have a brain. Instead, they have a ring of neural tissue surrounding their oral cavity that functions in-lieu of a true brain. However, experiments have shown that the sea cucumber is still about to function normally if this part of the animal is removed, showing that it doesn’t serve a central control function and is therefore not a real brain.
In fact, sea cucumbers not only can live without a brain, they can also live without any organs.
Sea Cucumber can Survive without any Organs
Sea cucumbers have amazing regenerative powers and one way by which this is demonstrated is by being able to replace lost organs. A sea cucumber sometimes defend itself by violently contracting itself and expelling its organs, yes, you got it right, its own organs onto a predator. The predator becomes stunned and confuse, allowing the sea cucumber time to get away. If you were the predator, you would be stunned too.
So how does a sea cucumber live without its organs? Sea cucumbers have relatively simple internal organs and can actually live without them for a period of time. If that’s not fantastic enough, they actually grow back those organs after a while.
Sea Cucumbers can Squeeze Through Holes Smaller than itself
Sea cucumbers have been said to be able to liquefy themselves and flow through cracks, and remarkably, this is actually true. Sea cucumbers have something called the catch collagen that forms their body wall. This can be loosened and tightened at will, so sea cucumbers can in fact liquefy its body and “flow” across cracks smaller than itself. In fact, sea cucumbers can not only liquefy themselves, they can also harden themselves to resist attacks from predators using the same catch collagen.
Sea cucumbers are found commonly in restaurants and also in medical halls as an important ingredient in many Chinese traditional medicine formulas.
Sea cucumbers are said to have excellent healing properties, in part due to its ability to regenerate loss organs. Many traditional medicine are founded on basis of like begets like, meaning animals like sea cucumbers with their incredible regenerative abilities are thought to be able to impart similar healing properties to those who eat them.
Although the basis may seem unscientific, the fact is recent scientific studies on sea cucumbers show that extracts from sea cucumbers have shown to contain active ingredients that promote cell growth and regeneration.
Traditional medicine in East Asia and South East Asia all use various species of sea cucumber as medicinal ingredient. Pharmaceutical companies have begun to make sea cucumber extraction into oil or cream as beauty products.
Chinese culture typically marries food and preventive medication into a set of lifestyle and philosophy. The Chinese believe in eating as a form of maintaining good health and it is very common to see food items with medicinal value. Sea cucumbers form one part of such food items and such food items usually have a price proportional to its purported medicinal benefits.
Sea cucumbers are considered high end delicacies in Chinese cuisines, testament to their status in both Chinese food and Chinese medicine. Consumption of sea cucumbers go a long way back in Asia and in the old days before refrigerators were invented, sea cucumbers were dried as a means of preservation so that they can be transported inland where they fetch even higher prices.
Sea cucumbers are usually found in Chinese restaurants where they are cooked with Chinese flower mushrooms, also known as shiitake, as well as Chinese cabbage. It is cooked in a relatively thick oyster sauce.
Another popular way which sea cucumbers are consumed is by brewing them in soup. They are usually cooked with a concoction of other medical herbs and usually chicken broth to form a medicinal soup.
Sea cucumbers by themselves do not boast of any special flavor or great taste. In fact, sea cucumbers are described as tasteless, therefore requiring them to be cooked with other ingredients with a strong aroma, like oyster sauce or chicken broth which imparts to the sea cucumber their flavor.
The texture of sea cucumbers is described as spongy and fairly tough, so they usually need to be cooked under high heat or cooked for long hours to be palatable. However, sea cucumbers are not valued for their taste but for their health benefits, therefore they continue to remain as expensive delicacies despite not having an exceptional taste to boot.