Do you love long walks on the beach? The feeling of pressing your toes into the sand or spreading your towel out and enjoying your favorite beach read? Well, if you’ve ever relished in the wonders of sandy shores, you’ve been but one step removed from one of the ocean’s most important (yet vastly overlooked) heroes and their wonderful bums! Wanna meet them?

Sporting a long tubular body and lacking a brain, the humble sea cucumber may not be what you imagine a hero to be like. But with the ability to shelter up to 15 fish, regenerate ecosystems, and breathe all with their anuses, they’ll be on your mind every time you head to the beach!

Why? Well, it’s estimated that over half of the world’s sand has made its way through the digestive tract of the sea cucumber! And it all just goes to show: most of the time, the members of a community who keep us moving forward are the ones that are we often don’t even know are there. So, let’s get you a whole new appreciation for the sand under your feet with these funky creatures, shall we?

Image: Pink sea cucumber moving over coral

Source: Pixabay

Slowly slinking along the seafloor, sea cucumbers are the vacuum cleaners of the ocean!

These aquatic sausages fill a very unique but crucial niche in the ocean—and they’re really good at their jobs!

With an appetite for the organic matter in mud, over 1200 species of these long, warty, and sometimes frilly creatures make their way along every ocean floor (even to the deepest bits). Because of all of their grazing, ecosystems are thriving. These cuties and their booties are recycling waste into essential nutrients and supporting the health of underwater communities everywhere! 1

Needless to say, they’ve had to adopt some interesting ways of life to be this successful at this tho. Some of their features include rows of sticky little feet, breathing mainly through their anuses, and even shooting their internal organs out at their attackers when startled.

So, that’s why I’d like to formally invite you to meet this digestive wonder of the deep in all of their glory. For without them and all of their unique skills, your trip to the beach would most definitely not be the same! Here’s one of our favorite creators with a fantastically quirky animation to make this life-changing introduction.

Via: TED-Ed 2

If you’re in the mood to be delighted for hours with some of the best educational videos out there, head on over to TED-Ed’s YouTube library! They cover all subjects under the sun in easily digestible, insanely entertaining videos that’ll leave you feeling enlightened and excited about the world we’re in.

Sea cucumbers! Who knew?!

These squishy pickles moving through and feasting on the brine of the sea help to make the ocean what it is; keeping coral healthy, fighting acidification, reoxygenating the water, and ensuring the crud on the floor isn’t there for long!

Knowing this makes the next time you head to the beach and play in the sand so much more exciting! Now, you know that you’re connected to one of the world’s strangest creatures. They’re out there, slowly making their way across the ocean in their own unique way! Without them, putting your feet in the sand may not be such a wonderful feeling.

So, who else is out there, trudging along doing work that we rarely notice until they’re gone?

I have a feeling the world would look a whole lot different (and we’d be at a real loss) if some of these fascinating little friends up and disappeared:

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And if you’d like to see what another amazing butt can do (this one makes candy!), definitely check out this article:

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What Are These Walking Jellybeans Doing on Your Plants?

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If you take a closer look at the world around you, you’ll surely be surprised by what you find!

This planet functions because millions of specialized beings are all working together, doing their thing. A lot of the time, those that make the biggest impact are the same ones that we overlook every day!

Stay open to new possibilities!

  • Sam

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” —Albert Einstein 

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  1. “Sea Cucumber | Echinoderm | Britannica.” Encyclopædia Britannica, 2020, Accessed 16 June 2020.
  2. TED-Ed. “This Sea Creature Breathes through Its Butt – Cella Wright.” YouTube, 2020, Accessed 16 June 2020.

Sam has written and edited hundreds of articles since joining the EWC team in 2016. She writes about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the EWC office, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and taster of cheeses.