The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species #20: Swimming Sea Cucumbers

by Kevin Zelnio

Cuke1 Cuke2
Images copyright the SERPENT Project.

#20 Enypniastes eximia (Phylum: Echinodermata, Class: Holothuroidea, Order: Elasipodida, Family: Pelagothuridae)

Craig likens this semi-transparent sack of echinodermaliscious jelly to a floating frozen chicken. I prefer to think of it as the deep-sea ballerina (see video below). Either way this sea cucumber is truly weird, even for being an Echinoderm. You see, most sea cucumber are good and obey the laws of holothurian normalcy. That is, they are cucumberiform and crawl around the ocean floor. No weird skirts. No swimming gracefully out into the open ocean. This unique swimming behavior is an escape response for Enypniastes eximia. When threatened it gets the heck outta there!

Described in 1882 from the Challenger Expedition dredges, they are quite cosmopolitan on the seafloor. The ones in the pictures above are from the Indian Ocean, while the video shows one from the Gulf of Mexico. I have seen them on cruises to the eastern and southwestern Pacific  as well. Yet they still retain all the classical holothurian characteristics. Such fine traits like puking out their guts when scared, breathing from there butts, calcareous spicules in the skin, and being just plain odd.

Video courtesy of Bob Carney and NOAA Ocean Explorer

Kevin Zelnio (870 Posts)

2 Replies to “The 27 Best Deep-Sea Species #20: Swimming Sea Cucumbers”

  1. Totally weird and totally cool.
    THe also always seem to get a lot of attention when spotted. On the Deep Atlantic Stepping Stones missions they spotted one and followed it with Herc’ for more than 5 minutes with HD rolling. And yes, I have probably spent 20 minute or so watching that clip in real time. Is it because they are so weird? Because they are in motion, yet pretty easy to track and keep up with? Do they (or their motion) cause some sort of trance? Remote holothurian mind control?

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