A mystery close-up for you. Above is a highly magnified view. The next two images show the upper portions of the branched tentacles:
The following three images provide views of the body.
The anterior (front) end, with tentacles retracted:
The posterior (back) end:
These pictures serve as an introduction to a wonderful sea cucumber, Pentamera pediparva!
This is a northern species with a reported geographic range of British Columbia to northern California. We are trying to learn more about this species, but this could be the first record south of Eureka, CA.
Do you remember that sea cucumbers have small, calcified plates called ossicles embedded in their skin? They're the shiny pieces visible in the first photograph of this post. The ossicles have very distinctive shapes and are important for species-level identification.
Here's a look at some isolated ossicles from this sea cucumber. The top photos (blue background) are from the tubefeet, while the bottom photos (gray background) are from the skin. We were uncertain about the identity of this cucumber until we saw these ossicles and matched them with a diagram:
Below is an illustration of Pentamera pediparva ossicles. Compare their shapes with the photos above:
Modified from Sea Cucumbers of British Columbia, Southeast Alaska and Puget Sound (Lambert 1997).
We're very excited about the possibility of documenting a new site for this little-known sea cucumber. Eric discovered it on a low intertidal boulder along the Bodega Bay shoreline on 11 November 2015.
P.S. Hello to Casey and other sea cucumber enthusiasts!