Scuba diver encounters incredibly bizarre underwater animal
The ocean is full of beautiful and mysterious creatures. Some are stunning in their coloring and markings, others are sleek and graceful. Some appear to be awkward and clumsy and others look fearsome. But almost all of them are fascinating and mysterious in one way or another. They are creatures that many people never encounter and would never believe existed unless they saw them or at least saw a picture or video of them.
This beaded sea cucumber is one of those mysterious and mystifying animals. Returning from deeper waters, this scuba diver was exploring the shallows near shore when he came upon this one stretched out and feeding. He had never seen one of these before and he initially thought it was a long piece of cloth that had sunk to the ocean floor. He touched it with the intention of lifting a piece of litter from the sand to dispose of it properly. But he found it sticky to the touch and it moved, making him realize that it was alive. It stretched across the sand for more than two meters (6 feet) and its head resembled an alien creature with 15 feathery tentacles. These tentacles opened up and then closed toward the center of the head repeatedly, making it appear that the animal was filtering something edible out of the water and gathering it in a mouth of some sort. It continuously stretched these feathery arms outwards as it wriggled forward along the ocean floor. It bumped into plants and coral as it moved, suggesting that it had no sight or ability to detect what was in front of it other than by feel.
Beaded sea cucumbers actually gather sand and debris from the ocean bottom, or matter this stirred up near the bottom. It sifts the debris and draws it into its mouth. Organic matter is digested and sand is passed through and out.
There are actually several species of beaded sea cucumber. They differ greatly in markings and size, but all feed and move in a similar fashion. Rhythmic muscular contraction (peristalsis) enables this creature to move.
Found in the water near the shore of Vava'u Island in Tonga (near Fiji), this sea cucumber was very fascinating to watch. They are more active in the evening and during the night, often hiding under coral during the day.