Until recently, the behavior and benefits of sea cucumbers have been a bit of a mystery to the average person.
Sea cucumbers have long been appreciated in East Asian medicinal practices (not to mention high-end cuisine), for a host of benefits. They also happen to be extremely nutritious.
And now, thanks to recent advances in scientific research, we are finally getting a glimpse into the weird and wonderful world of this elusive creature!
Read on to learn 8 facts about sea cucumbers, and why they might be the most impressive being in nature.
1. Sea cucumbers have camouflage capabilities
How handy would it be to be able to not just hide from threats but instantly blend into your surroundings?
Sea cucumbers possess the impressive ability to burrow into the ocean floor and use camouflage to escape and evade predators.
Their skin is tough and protective as well thanks to the high content of collagen – an extra means of protection.
2. Sea cucumbers can throw up their guts (?!)
How’s this for a protective mechanism? When threatened, sea cucumbers will explode their internal organs onto predators such as crabs and fish in order to confuse them.
Once a successful getaway has been achieved, they will use their incredible cloning abilities to regenerate any lost organs and go about their daily business. All in a day’s work for the impressive sea cucumber.
3. Sea cucumbers can regenerate missing body parts
Sometimes living under the sea can be rough. In the event a sea cucumber loses part of their body, either as a self-inflicted accident or from predators, it is able to rapidly regrow these parts. And it’s not just limbs but any lost internal organs or external appendages!
In fact, a separated body part can even regenerate into a fully formed functional adult, independent of the original animal.
It’s not science fiction, just nature at work.
4. Sea cucumbers are an incredibly diverse group
Sea cucumbers come in a vast array of sizes, colours and living habits thanks to the diversity of their group (specifically the class Holothuroidea).
There are over 1,150 different species of sea cucumber found in most oceans and live anywhere from shallow to deep water.
As for size? Sea cucumbers can range in length anywhere between a miniscule 3 mm to a whopping 100 cm, although the most common size is 10-30 cm.
5. Sea cucumbers travel in herds
Believe it or not, sea cucumbers like to be part of a group!
In the deep sea (way down to 8.8 km below the surface), sea cucumbers travel in large herds that move across the ocean floor together searching for food. In some instances, these large herds are observed in shallow waters.
6. Sea cucumbers are a rich source of essential amino acids
When a food is as revered as the sea cucumber is in Chinese culture, it’s no surprise when modern science confirms its health benefits.
Sea cucumbers contain many nutrients, but their amino acid content has gained attention in recent years. They are extremely rich in the essential amino acids glycine, glutamic acid and arginine which is notable not just for general health but possible immune benefits.
The research is still emerging, so stay tuned for more.
7. Sea cucumbers could keep viruses at bay
Recent scientific research on the composition of sea cucumber has revealed a collection of bioactive ingredients with anti-viral properties.
When consumed nutritionally, these ingredients help boost immune function and fight viral infection and disease.
More research is needed, of course, but this exciting direction is promising for the health and wellness sector.
8. Sea cucumbers are exceptionally rich in a variety of nutrients
Enjoyed as a food in Chinese culture, sea cucumber contains a vast profile of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. These include collagen, polyunsaturated fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B3 (niacin), and minerals, especially calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.
Learn more about the health benefits of sea cucumber here.