Sea cucumbers are a member of the phylum Echinodermata, which means “spiny skin”. Other members of this phylum include sea stars, sea urchins and sand dollars. The most notable characteristic of this phylum is their ability to regenerate tissue, organs and limbs. Some organisms can regenerate their entire structure from a single limb! The warty sea cucumber can be found on the ocean floor sediment off the coast of Catalina Island. When handled roughly or threatened by a predator, sea cucumbers can tear away and expel parts of their gut in a process called evisceration. The eviscerated internal structures serve as a distraction and easy meal for the opposing predator, allowing the sea cucumber to escape on its tube feet and regenerate the missing parts.
At CIMI, we are fascinated with this process. So fascinated, in fact, that it has become a staple game for our kayak expeditions! Anyone who’s been kayaking at CIMI has probably heard of or played evisceration. The object of the game is to get an inflated ball to the moving goals, which are the instructors in their kayaks. When a kayak has the ball in their boat, the other team can tag the side of their boat and yell “evisceration!” Then, like the warty sea cucumber, the ball holders must eviscerate by throwing the ball far behind them without looking at where it is headed. Then, any boat can grab it from the water, and the game continues!