Some new aliens in the lab....
A new honours student project to be undertaken by Marina Jourey is to focus on the effects of sea cucumbers (properly known as holothurians and a relative of the more familiar starfish and sea urchins) on sediment biogeochemistry, especially mineralogy.
These poor little chaps (about 10cm long) were taken from the holding tanks the the Ocean Sciences Centre to start a new life among geologists. These ?Orange Footed Sea Cucumbers normally live attached to rocks offshore Newfoundland. We are awaiting a taxonomic verdict from our ichnofriend Suzanne Dufour.
Moving to the earth science department was a little bit of an adventure for them as the chiller malfunctioned and created 10cm of ice on the surface of the tank.
Fortunately they seem perfectly happy and have survived that- perhaps attesting to quite how nasty and cold the North Atlantic can get.
Having turned the chiller off and let them warm up to a positively toasty 5 degrees Celcius they happily wandered around the tank on their tube feet (in rows running the length of their body) with agendas of their own (that remain obscure to us).
At the moment they are proving themselves to be highly efficient suspension feeders sucking up all the turbid sediment we have added to the water (their mouth end is the one with the pretty (gross) tentacle like organ.
The most mysterious part of their biology so far is why our orange footed holthurians are purple and brown, and even when the mouthparts are orangey, we are at a loss to why they are called orange FOOTED sea cucumbers.
I guess all will become clear in the end, and we will collect the poop as it clears.
photocredit to Chris B. (thanks muchly Chris).