The ocean is full of weird, wacky creatures. Some are beautiful, like the sea anemone. Others are intriguing and a little gross.
The sea cucumber is intriguing and a lot gross. It’s also multi-purposeful, which is really cool. And bi-polar in its eating behavior, using its anus as a second mouth!
Put yourself in his position. Can you visualize yourself gnawing on a steak and baked potato with your butt hole? Chomping on trail mix, or slurping a milkshake back there?
According to National Geographic, the giant sea cucumber is an amazing bi-polar eater:
Their first hint that the sea cucumber anus was doing triple duty came from a structure called the rete mirabile, a set of blood vessels that connect the sea cucumber’s respiratory trees with its gut.
Initially, Jaeckle, of Illinois Wesleyan University, and Strathmann, of the University of Washington, thought that the rete mirabile was used to transfer oxygen from the respiratory trees to the gut. But if P. californicus were obtaining food via its anus, it would likely use the rete mirabile to transfer the food to the gut.
When the scientists looked at tissue samples from the sea cucumber under the microscope, they found even more hints that P. californicus was using its anus as a second mouth: They found small pieces of algae and iron in the respiratory trees near the anus.
In addition, the sea cucumber’s respiratory trees had small, finger-like projections known as microvilli that are normally found in the gut and aid with nutrient absorption. This also indicated that P. californicus was absorbing food using its anus and respiratory trees.
The authors conclude that although they looked only for evidence of bipolar feeding—the more formal and perhaps polite term for eating with your butt—in one species of sea cucumber, many other species are likely to use this method of feeding.
So, there you go–sea cucumbers are awesome, amazing anus-able animals that kinda look like pickles, penises and poop!
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