Tentacled Transparent Sea Cucumbers!!!! Oh My!

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 23, 2009 8:53 am

Picture 11The Census of Marine Life’s latest report is a doozy. It includes ~5,600 new species in addition to the 230,000 already recorded. Scientists hope to increase the figure by thousands before the census is done in October 2010. In the tally, researchers have cataloged 17,650 species below a depth of 656 feet (where sunlight ceases):

“The deep sea was considered a desert until not so long ago; it’s quite amazing to have documented close to 20,000 forms of life in a zone that was thought to be barren,” said Jesse Ausubel with the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a sponsor of the census. “The deep sea is the least explored environment on earth.”

The poster critter of the expedition is, of course, a very charismatic sea cucumber called Enypniastes. At 2,750 meters deep in the Northern Gulf of Mexico, it has many tentacles and sweeps sediment into its mouth. What a little beauty!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Marine Science

Comments (8)

Links to this Post

  1. No Plan | The Intersection | Discover Magazine | January 27, 2010
  1. Guy

    Given that we find life in the most seemingly inhospitable places on Earth, the chances of finding life elsewhere int the solar systems are getting better. I wonder how long before we have proof of life on existing other worlds.

  2. marilee shelton

    can these creatures hurt a human if physical contact were to be made, such as with a jelly fish? They certainly are beautiful…..

  3. @1 Guy

    I wonder how long before we have proof of life on existing other worlds.

    me too ;)

    @2 marilee shelton

    can these creatures hurt a human if physical contact were to be made, such as with a jelly fish?

    Different species exhibit different qualities and I don’t know enough about the life history of this critter to say. I studied Cucumaria frondosa which you’ll often encounter in touch tanks at aquariums (along with sea stars and horseshoe crabs). These are relatively innocuous to touch but I encountered unusual toxins upon dissection, which is common among echinoderms.

  4. Copernicus
  5. Tuatara
  6. John Kwok

    @ marilee and Sheril -

    What I find most intriguing about this photograph is that it shows an organism, little changed from its distant late Precambrian and early Cambrian ancestors, that belongs to a phylum, the Hemichordata, that is, relatively speaking, the nearest “sibling” to our own phylum, Chordata (I make this observation as a former invertebrate paleobiologist.).

  7. Such prolific life simply boggles the mind!

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About Sheril Kirshenbaum

Sheril Kirshenbaum is a research scientist with the Webber Energy Group at the University of Texas at Austin's Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy where she works on projects to enhance public understanding of energy issues as they relate to food, oceans, and culture. She is involved in conservation initiatives across levels of government, working to improve communication between scientists, policymakers, and the public. Sheril is the author of The Science of Kissing, which explores one of humanity's fondest pastimes. She also co-authored Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future with Chris Mooney, chosen by Library Journal as one of the Best Sci-Tech Books of 2009 and named by President Obama's science advisor John Holdren as his top recommended read. Sheril contributes to popular publications including Newsweek, The Washington Post, Discover Magazine, and The Nation, frequently covering topics that bridge science and society from climate change to genetically modified foods. Her writing is featured in the anthology The Best American Science Writing 2010. In 2006 Sheril served as a legislative Knauss science fellow on Capitol Hill with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) where she was involved in energy, climate, and ocean policy. She also has experience working on pop radio and her work has been published in Science, Fisheries Bulletin, Oecologia, and Issues in Science and Technology. In 2007, she helped to found Science Debate; an initiative encouraging candidates to debate science research and innovation issues on the campaign trail. Previously, Sheril was a research associate at Duke University's Nicholas School of the Environment and has served as a Fellow with the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History and as a Howard Hughes Research Fellow. She has contributed reports to The Nature Conservancy and provided assistance on international protected area projects. Sheril serves as a science advisor to NPR's Science Friday and its nonprofit partner, Science Friday Initiative. She also serves on the program committee for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). She speaks regularly around the country to audiences at universities, federal agencies, and museums and has been a guest on such programs as The Today Show and The Daily Rundown on MSNBC. Sheril is a graduate of Tufts University and holds two masters of science degrees in marine biology and marine policy from the University of Maine. She co-hosts The Intersection on Discover blogs with Chris Mooney and has contributed to DeSmogBlog, Talking Science, Wired Science and Seed. She was born in Suffern, New York and is also a musician. Sheril lives in Austin, Texas with her husband David Lowry. Interested in booking Sheril Kirshenbaum to speak at your next event? Contact Hachette Speakers Bureau 866.376.6591 info@hachettespeakersbureau.com For more information, visit her website or email Sheril at srkirshenbaum@yahoo.com.

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