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A View From Inside the Kodiak Lab Aquarium - Post 5

April 22, 2021

Take a peek inside the Kodiak Lab aquarium and touch tank to meet some interesting underwater inhabitants!

Close up photo of a California Sea Cucumber displaying feeding appendages. A California Sea Cucumber extending its feeding appendages at the Kodiak Lab Aquarium.

Each year more than 15,000 people visit the Kodiak Laboratory.

One of the biggest attractions is our 3,500-gallon aquarium and touch tank.

Join us as we take our website visitors on a virtual tour to meet some of the unique and fascinating animals that live in our giant ocean tank.

Each month we will highlight a different marine species from invertebrates such as crabs or mollusks to sea stars (echinoderms) and fish.

Meet the California Sea Cucumber

Hello everyone and welcome back to another spotlight post on animals you can find here in Kodiak, Alaska!

Today we are featuring a remarkable animal that you can find not only in our touch tank but also in various ocean habitats. The California sea cucumber, also known as Parastichopus californicus, is found from the intertidal zone down to 800 feet below the surface of the ocean — in waters ranging from Alaska to California.

The California sea cucumber is related to other echinoderms including sea stars, sea urchins, and sand dollars. They are all invertebrates (meaning they have no backbone).

Unlike their relatives, sea cucumbers do not have a hard exterior to help protect them from predators—but they do have other defense mechanisms. For instance, if they feel threatened, they can actually expel their organs to deter predators. But amazingly they will regrow these organs in just a few days.

Another effective deterrent is the use a type of camouflage known as mimicry. They can make themselves look unappetizing to a potential predator by taking on the appearance of an animal with hard and sharp spines. These “spines” are actually quite soft and also require a lot of energy to grow and create.

Photo of a California Sea Cucumber in the Kodiak lab touchtank.

Sea cucumbers are filter feeders and will use their unique appendages to graze and feed on food such as phytoplankton and zooplankton. They can grow to be 20 inches long. However, size is not an indication of age, it's just a measure of how much they are eating. Often it is difficult to age a sea cucumber just by sight!

Sea cucumbers are nocturnal animals—meaning they are most active at night, but we are fortunate to be able to see them during the day in our touch tank at that the Kodiak Lab.

The next time you are you are out tide pooling or snorkeling off the North American Pacific Coast be sure to keep a look out for the California Sea Cucumber!

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