YOU NEVER KNOW......
I have to say, you never know what is out there! I went on a late afternoon walk on Head Beach the Sunday after Thanksgiving. No one was on the beach. The tide had just left some flotsam and jetsam that attracted my attention, so I walked up and down trying to check for anything unusual. I wasn't disappointed. As I walked the strand line, I noticed a lot of live Surf Clams were laid high and dry by the tide. Each one is a handful, but I started picking them up and heaving them back into the ocean. (I thought the sign said, "No Lifeguards on Duty"!) Then I saw several sea stars that didn't look very healthy. They too were heaved into the water. Something caught my eye at that point, looking very much like a deer ear! Hey, wait a minute, the hunting season is now over! I took a closer look and picked up what made me think, I've found my first Sea Cucumber on Small Point! I brought it home as it was getting dark and I wanted time to determine what it was. The animal did not fully recover, but after consulting a few books I am convinced it is a Sea Cucumber. These are related to Sea Stars and have five rows of tube feet the length of its body. The mouth is surrounded by ten tentacles. These animals occur in deeper waters, but I have never seen one here. You can imagine my joy in finding this animal, though I believe it was out of the water too long to fully recover. In the picture above you see a live Surf Clam, two Sea Stars and the Sea Cucumber, all found stranded on the beach. On the right, I am holding the top end of the Sea Cucumber to show its mouth and surrounding tentacles. The tentacles have seen better days.
Just a few more interesting characteristics of Sea Cucumbers. They are related to Sea Stars, Sand dollars and Sea Urchins, but what do they have in common, you might ask. These animals have a mouth at one end and an anus at the other. They lie on their side, showing a compromise between radial symmetry of all echinoderms, and the bilateral symmetry of most higher forms of animal life. The rows of tube feet in this animal are used for holding the Sea Cucumber in place or moving slowly over the substrate. These are suspension feeders. The tube feet surrounding the mouth have been modified into long, branched, tentacles. The sticky tentacles capture plankton which is moved to the mouth area. The internal skeleton of these creatures is made up of widely scattered microscopic plates. Like all echinoderms, their shape is maintained by a water vascular system also used to operate those tube feet.
Earlier in the week, I checked out the north end of the island. The Hermit Hut is still standing despite some extremely high tides. Unfortunately, hikers have added graffiti to the rock wall which takes away from the construction in my opinion. I have a feeling the management will delete those words, though I concur with the peace message. 12/4/08 Ronnie into cucumbers.