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  • Arushi Srivastava

The Aquatic Fruit

Amongst the most exceptional critters that lurk beneath our deep oceans, sea cucumbers are one of the most astounding species. Although they sound like some sort of fruit, these fascinating creatures actually happen to be animals belonging to the phylum of echinoderms. Over one thousand, two hundred and fifty known species are found in all marine environments throughout the world. These animals resemble a soft cucumber and can be thin snake-like or have a full-grown slug shape, which gives them their name. The invertebrates can vary in size, from only three centimeters to about one meter in length. Some have a thick body wall while others are jelly-like. They range in colours from being red or orange to as dark as olive green or brown. Sea cucumbers have a very short lifespan of about five to ten years. They are scavengers and eat planktons, algae, and other waste material found on the ocean bed. Their excreta contain calcium carbonate and ammonia which are helpful in coral formation and as food for corals respectively.

One of the most unique features of these organisms is that they don’t have any eyes, nose, heart, or brain at all! In fact, they have no distinct sensory organs in any way. Instead, they have nerve endings scattered throughout the skin which help them to feel and be sensitive towards the light. Since they have no facial features as such, these animals breathe through their anus. Their mouth is surrounded by tentacles and they have tubular feet, which despite being five in number makes them really slow. There are males as well as females of the species. Some can even be bisexual.

While at first glance as much as they look like harmless innocent creatures, sea cucumbers can turn out to be nightmares. Being soft-bodied, they act as prey for a variety of animals like crabs and lobsters. When threatened, they can discharge viscous thread-like substances to trap their opponent. This can strangulate the victim giving time for sea cucumbers to escape or can even kill them. Some are able to cripple the enemy by turning their body inside out and ejecting various organs and tissues. These organs are then able to regenerate in about six weeks. At times, they are capable of exposing hook-like structures making it harder for predators to eat them.

These animals are even enjoyed as delicacies in some countries. They are considered a good source of proteins and are incorporated in several cuisines. Being highly expensive, the organisms are considered as a ‘luxury snack’. Besides, the species also plays a vital role in medicines. They are known to cure diseases like cancer and arthritis. For such purposes, sea cucumbers are widely hunted globally which is driving them towards extinction.

They are extremely endangered and controlled fishing practices must be taken into action to avoid their termination. Fishermen should start to consider aquaculture farming, which is the cultivation of marine organisms. Sea cucumbers are easy to farm as they can feed themselves if kept in mesh enclosures. Steps should be taken for the survival of these mesmerizing species before we lose them forever.

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1 comentário

16 de fev. de 2022

Wow!! Great work!!

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