Sea lilies more mobile than thought

This video is called Flying Crinoid.

From the Google cache of Dear Kitty ModBlog.

From LiveScience:

Underwater Escape: A Sea Lily’s Surprising Scoot

By LiveScience Staff

posted: 17 October 2005

Sea lilies look like terrestrial flowers, but they are really animals.

Yet until now scientists had no idea how agile they were.

A new video reveals a sea lily scooting across the ocean floor, apparently to escape a predator.

University of Michigan professor of geological sciences Tomasz Baumiller unveiled the video Sunday at a meeting of the Geological Society of America.

Get away

Sea lilies and feather stars, members of a group called crinoids, are closely related to starfish, sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

The two main types of crinoids look a lot alike except that sea lilies have stalks, and feather stars do not.

In addition, feather stars are known to crawl, and some can even swim, but sea lilies were thought not to have such abilities.

Some sea lilies regularly shed and regenerate the ends of their stalks, leaving finger-like appendages.

Baumiller and his colleague, Charles Messing of Nova Southeastern University, speculated that the creatures might be pulling up anchor to move to another location and the using their “fingers” to reattach.

In the late 1980s the researchers observed that sea lilies could, in fact, move from place to place—Baumiller had put some in a flow tank and noticed that they changed position from day to day, and Messing had noticed the same thing during dives with a submersible off Jamaica and Grand Cayman Island.

Both researchers saw sea lilies using their feathery arms to crawl, dragging their stalks behind them, but the scientists wondered what induced sea lilies to relocate in nature.

The video, of sea lily species Endoxocrinus parrae, can be seen here.

Crown of thorn starfish: here.

Silurian fossil starfish: here.

This is a sea cucumber video.

12 thoughts on “Sea lilies more mobile than thought

  1. Pingback: University Update

  2. Fossilized sea star a favorite at Burke Museum

    By Peninsula Daily News

    Story Published: Jan 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM PST

    Story Updated: Jan 19, 2010 at 12:46 PM PST

    SEATTLE — It’s a 15-million-year-old fossilized sea star from Olympic National Park, on display at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture at the University of Washington.

    A very rare find, the sea star was picked this month by Elizabeth Nesbitt, the Burke’s curator of paleontology, as her favorite “prehistoric acquisition of 2009” for museum.

    Found by tourist

    The sea star – also known as a starfish – was spotted by an unidentified tourist last July embedded in a sandstone bluff at ONP’s Beach No. 4 near Kalaloch.

    The visitor used a cell phone to take a picture of the fossil, then showed it to Pat Shields, a park interpreter, who in turn alerted other ONP park staff.

    After consulting with scientists at the Burke and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the sea star was cut from the bluff by Olympic National Park Coastal Ecologist Steve Fradkin and other ONP staffers using a diamond-bladed rock saw.

    The sea star was sent to the Burke, where it is now displayed along as part of an exhibit about the importance of national parks in the discovery and preservation of fossils.

    Fradkin, however, said that park visitors are just as vital to paleontology as the park itself.

    “These fossils are out there,” he said.

    “If a vigilant visitor hadn’t noticed it, we would never have found it.”

    Under the sea

    The rock formation in which it was found in suggests the sea star was a denizen of the deep seas — and was likely preserved in sediment by an underwater avalanche and later uplifted with other marine sediment to be part of the Olympic Peninsula.

    “Located in the new acquisitions case as a single display, the sea star is approximately 15 million years old, and it is the only fossil we have from that area,” said Nesbitt.

    “This find is particularly significant because sea stars are exceptionally rare in the fossil record.”

    The sea star was the focus of a public lecture, “Fossil Sea Star Reveals Clues to Olympic’s Geologic Past,” at the ONP’s Visitor Center in Port Angeles on Dec. 8.

    It was the second monthly program in the park’s winter Perspectives series of lectures and drew a full house.


  3. Squishy sea cucumbers reside in Pearl Harbor, Kaneohe Bay

    By Susan Scott

    POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 06, 2010

    Newcomer to the islands Maria Regan e-mailed me several photos and this note: “I saw a bunch of small snake/eels (some orange or red) … out on the Kaneohe Bay sandbar.” Maria asked whether I could identify them for her, and I replied in technical terms: “The pink/red/orange things are sea cucumbers. They’re OK to pick up and are really squishy and cool.” (At least I knew they were sea cucumbers.)

    Now that I’m home with my books and Internet, I can fill in a few more details about these colorful creatures.

    The most widely used common name for this species is the conspicuous sea cucumber, but I also found it called the prickly and the sea worm sea cucumber. These wormlike sea creatures might look like pink party balloons, but they’re active members of the reef’s maintenance staff, vacuuming up organic matter that settles on the ocean floor.

    I became acquainted with the 3-foot-long sea cucumbers years ago when I too was new to the islands and taking biology courses at UH. One of my professors took our class to Kaneohe Bay’s Coconut Island, home of the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, and there I saw the weird, snaky things on the sand in about two feet of water. The teaching assistant told me they were harmless sea cucumbers. I could pick one up, but gently, she said.

    Well, appearance isn’t the only weird thing about this family. The skin of these cucumbers sticks to your fingers in an odd, Velcro-like way, and the water-filled tube that is the creature’s body has no chambers. When you pick up this creature, therefore, the water falls to either side, and you’re left holding what feels like a collapsed plastic bag with bulging ends. When you put it down, the animal recovers its cylindrical shape.

    Hawaii hosts three species of serpentine sea cucumbers, a nickname for their family, Synaptidae. Because their body walls are thin and tear easily, it’s best not to take the animal from the water, but rather slide a hand beneath its middle and gently lift. You’ll see the body go flat and feel the creature’s tiny hooks embedded in its skin.

    These harmless hooks don’t hurt human hands and detach easily when you pull away. The hooks help the animal hold its body in place as it eats.

    Dead plant and animal particles, whether suspended in the water or sitting on the ocean floor, are food for these sea cucumbers (and the familiar firm-bodied kinds, too). The animals gather this nourishment with delicate tentacles at the mouth end of the body. In slow rhythm the tentacles unfurl, pick up food particles and furl, depositing the meal in the mouth.

    Light-sensitive organs at the base of each tentacle sense shadows and movement, causing the sea cucumber to tuck in its tentacles and contract its body.

    Conspicuous sea cucumbers are exactly that, ranging in color from bright orange to pink to white. Usually, you’ll find them sprawled on sand or seaweed in three feet or less of water in either Kaneohe Bay or Pearl Harbor. The species is rare or absent everywhere else in Hawaii.

    Conspicuous sea cucumbers have swellings along their bodies reminiscent of human colons. And speaking of which, sea cucumbers recycle particles from sewage spills, making them allies in helping manage our mistakes.

    You can see excellent pictures of these pink/red/orange sea cucumbers on Hawaii biologists Keoki and Yuko Stender’s website, Click on Invertebrates, then Sea Cucumbers, then Conspicuous Sea Cucumbers (Opheodesoma spectabilis).

    They’re squishy and cool.


    Susan Scott can be reached at


  4. Sea cucumbers next to be protected?


    Posted – Saturday, November 30, 2013 10:15 AM EST

    Sea cucumbers are popular for aquariums and for use in medicine in Asia.

    The opening of a Lower Keys seafood processing facility has spurred state fishery managers to move toward limiting harvests of the Florida sea cucumber.

    “In the first half of 2013, the landings [of sea cucumbers] have more than tripled the previous annual average with over 49,000 sea cucumbers landed,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission biologist Melissa Recks said at the FWC’s Nov. 21 meeting in Weston.

    The FWC board directed agency staff to prepare a draft regulation that sets a new boat limit of 200 sea cucumbers per day, to be considered for possible adoption at the commission’s February meeting.

    Florida law limits the harvest of sea cucumbers to people who hold marine-life licenses for collecting live animals, primarily for the aquarium trade. But there is no limit on how many sea cucumbers a licensed collector can take. Licensed recreational fishers can take five per day, but cannot legally sell them.

    With a limited aquarist market for sea cucumbers — estimated in recent years at just $14,000 annually statewide, or about $1 per cucumber, wholesale — there was little concern about depleting the species population.

    But there is a big Asian market for sea cucumbers as a high-protein delicacy, and in alternative-medicine treatments for arthritis, wound healing and more.

    “At least one exporter has established a processing facility in the Keys and is recruiting harvesters to supply his export business,” says an FWC staff report.

    Florida Sea Cucumber Corp., registered in June 2012 as a Florida corporation but based in New York City, operates a processing facility on Ramrod Key.

    “We are a supplier of organic, farm-raised and wild-caught Florida sea cucumbers,” the firm says on its website. “Our products are caught in a sustainable manner and we operate under all required licenses needed to catch sea cucumbers.

    “In addition, we breed sea cucumbers in our aquaculture pens to replenish [the] local population of the species,” the site says. “Our goal is to repopulate the area with more than we catch.”

    The FWC report describes Florida sea cucumbers “sedentary marine invertebrates that inhabit shallow-water habitats in the Florida Keys, residing in seagrass beds, lagoons and nearshore reefs. They are vulnerable to overfishing because their visibility and sedentary nature make them easy to locate and collect.”

    Sea cucumbers can live up to 15 years, but need large populations to successfully spawn. They prowl the ocean bottom for organic debris and provide benefits for the overall marine ecosystem.

    Around the world, few nations set limits on harvesting the lowly sea cucumber. That resulted in “a series of boom-and-bust fisheries,” Recks told the FWC. Sea cucumbers were nearly wiped out in some areas and heavily overfished in others. Many tropical nations have since adopted a total ban on harvesting the species.

    “There have also been severe [sea cucumber] population crashes recorded in high-profile conservation sites such as the Great Barrier Reef and Galapagos Islands National Park due to overfishing, with no signs of recovery at these sites,” Recks said.

    The Florida Marine Life Association, representing many of the state’s 160 licensed commercial collectors, recommended the 200-per-day boat limit.

    “Everybody involved with marine life is involved with the aquarium trade, not exporting food fish to another country,” group President Jeff Turner told the FWC. “We’re trying to identify how this came about.”

    A representative of the Sierra Club, Drew Martin, also endorsed the limit. “The marine environment is so important, and sea cucumbers are important to the marine environment,” he said.


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