Bay Journal

O say can you sea cucumbers in the Bay?

  • By Kathleen Gaskell on March 12, 2017
The pale sea cucumber (Cucumaria pulcherrima) grows 1–2 inches long.  (Southeastern Regional Taxonomic Center, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources)

There are two species of sea cucumbers in the Chesapeake — the hairy sea cucumber (Sclerodactyla briareus) and the pale sea cucumber (Cucumaria pulcherrima) — but they may be hard to spot. Let’s see how well you do in a quiz about these curious sea creatures. Answers are below.

1. Why are hairy sea cucumbers so hard to see in the Chesapeake?
A. They only come out at night during the full moon.
B. They burrow into the muddy bottom, with only their head or rear end sticking out.
C. They hide under rocks.
D. They blend in with their seagrass habitat.

2. Where do the Chesapeake’s sea cucumbers live?
A. In deep freshwater of the Upper Bay
B. In deep saltwater of the Upper Bay
C. In shallow freshwater of the Upper Bay
D. In shallow saltwater of the Lower Bay

3. What do sea cucumbers eat?
A. Algae & plankton
B. Aquatic invertebrates
C. Waste particles
D. All of the above

4. Sea cucumbers are members of the phylum Echinodermata. Three of the creatures below are also echinoderms. Which is not?
A. Sand dollar
B. Sea slug
C. Sea urchin
D. Starfish

5. The word echinoderm comes from ancient Greek. What does is mean?
A. Eggshell pores
B. Hedgehog skin
C. Painful pincher
D. Spiny crawler

6. What do sea cucumbers have that most other echinoderms don’t?
A. A nose-like structure
B. A right and a left side
C. A top and a bottom
D. An earlike structure

7. Echinodermata body parts are equally distributed in a radial symmetry around a central axis. These parts are usually in groups of:
A. 4, or duplicates of 4
B. 5, or duplicates of 5
C. 6, or duplicates of 6
D. 7, or duplicates of 7

8. What important role(s) do sea cucumbers play in the environment?
A. Their eggs and larvae are food for many marine animals.
B. When they die, they decompose in a process that cleans the water. 
C. They eat and break down bacteria, plankton and algae floating by, which recycles these materials back into the marine ecosystem.
D. A & C

9. Who first called this creature a sea cucumber?
A. Albertus Magnus
B. Archimedes
C. Aristotle
D. Carl Linnaeus

10. Sea cucumbers release eggs and sperm into the water, where the eggs are fertilized. During this spawning dance, the creatures’ body posture resembles a(n):
A. Arch
B. Cobra
C. Sphere
D. The Letter “Z”

 

ANSWERS: 1. B   2. B   3. D   4. B   5. B  6. B   7. B   8. D   9. A  10. B

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About Kathleen Gaskell

Kathleen A. Gaskell, the layout & design editor for the Bay Journal, has been involved with several environmental programs for children.

Read more articles by Kathleen Gaskell

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