Once again, Eric's sharp eyes spotted a very special animal in the intertidal zone on Bodega Head.
Meet Lissothuria nutriens, also known as the Scarlet Sea Cucumber. (Remember that sea cucumbers are in the echinoderm Class Holothuroidea). Don't worry if you haven't seen this species before — they're small — usually less than ~2 cm (~0.75 inches) long.
And this species is more common from Monterey Bay south. It's probably rare in northern California. There's only one record in the California Academy of Sciences collection for Marin and Sonoma counties (from Duxbury Reef).
Here's a close-up of the branched tentacles:
And one of my favorite views — the wonderful, elephantine tube feet on the ventral (under) surface. Note the shiny ossicles.
Although Lissothuria can move around, they are mostly sedentary. This individual was partially camouflaged by bits of shell, algae, and other debris held by its tube feet.
Interestingly, this sea cucumber is a brooder — it releases eggs and broods them in pits on its dorsal surface, so the potential for long distance dispersal of its young is low.
This is our second time finding Lissothuria on Bodega Head. It's intriguing to think about how they got here and to wonder about whether they'll become more common in the future (if water temperatures become warmer).