By Madeline Southern – Cowichan Estuary Centre
Everyone knows cucumbers are green vegetables that grow in the garden… But did you know that cucumbers are also living sea animals? Ocean dwelling cukes are called Sea Cucumbers, because they look like their land- based vegetable counterparts.
In the Observation Tank at the Cowichan Estuary Nature Centre, we are hosting two different species of sea cucumbers. A small white cuke called “Stiff Footed Cucumber” and a baby “California Cucumber”. At the moment, both cukes are smaller than my pinky finger.
Both of these Cucumbers can be found in the rocky intertidal zone, usually attached to the underside of rocks, and sometimes hiding in tidepools.
Land cukes are tasty, but sea cukes are tasty as well. In some parts of Asia, they are considered a delicacy. *Please don’t try eating sea cucumbers unless you have proper training on preparation.
Unlike land cukes, Sea Cucumbers are living creatures and have the ability to escape other creatures that prey on them – usually sea stars and a few species of fish. One way they escape is by barfing out their intestines to use as a decoy so that the predator will hopefully go after the guts and not the cuke itself. Usually the decoy method works, and the cuke is able to crawl away to find a safe place to hide while it regrows its intestines.
Cukes are cool! And if you look carefully under rocks on a rocky shore you might be lucky enough to find one, down by the Bay!
Beach etiquette: Please be gentle with all creatures you find on the beach. The ocean is a hard place to live. If you turn a rock to look underneath, please turn it over and put it back exactly as you found it. The creatures that live under rocks need their homes to live.