Sea Cukes is another name for Sea Cucumbers which is a staple in peoples' diets, mainly in soups, stews and stir-fries, and demand for this homely undersea animal — cucumber is a misnomer, they're really echinoderms — is high. The Sea Cucumber is a prized food, particularly on Asian markets, where it fetches good prices in a smoked, dried form which are used in soups and, according to some reports, as an aphrodisiac. In its prepared form, Sea Cucumbers are known as trepang or béche-de-mer and, earlier this century and through much of the nineteenth century, the animal was the basis of a major export industry across northern Australia. The fishery itself goes back even further in time. Explorer Matthew Flinders sighted a fleet of 60 Indonesian vessels collecting Sea Cucumbers in the Gulf of Carpentaria while charting the Australian coast in 1803, and there is substantial evidence that the activity has been carried out since Macassans from South Celebes first visited Australia around 1700. There are many varieties of sea cucumber available including Sandfish, Surf Redfish, Black Teatfish, White Teatfish, Blackfish and Prickly Redfish. Interestingly, the Sea Cucumber is closely related to sea urchins and starfish, although its hard to see the resemblance at a glance. Their hard calcareous skeleton, reduced to microscopic spicules, is buried under the skin. Some Sea Cucumbers can expel sticky white threads to entangle or distract would-be predators, and some even expel their internal organs when disturbed. Amazingly the organs can be regenerated and life for the animal will go on normally. Worldwide, their body sizes vary from 2cm to 200 cm, and thicknesses between 1 and 20 cm. They are found in all oceans, mostly in warm shallow waters, but sometimes at great depths. However they are most common in the Indian Ocean and the South West Pacific. Their mouth, which is at one end of their body, is surrounded by a crown of between 10 and 20 retractable tentacles. These tentacles can be used to trap passing plankton or, depending on the species, used to sweep up the sandy mud in which they live. The mud is swallowed, the food particles removed, and the sand is passed through the body. Sea cucumbers move in a slug-like manner, using a series of little tube feet. Some of them are soft and flaccid but others are quite tough and leathery. Sea cucumbers are harvested from the wild by experienced licenced divers and then transported to drying facilities where they are cleaned and dried ready for export. Information for this page is from Sea Cucumbers, Class Holothuroidea: With body shapes ranging from spherical to long and worm-like, bizarre rings of tentacles circling a non-descript head-end, these slow-moving, drab to brightly colored and marked invertebrates are well-known at least by sight, by most aquarists. Unfortunately they have a dark side. Like many other spiny-skinned animals, Sea Cucumbers should only be tried in captivity with knowledge, trepidation and utmost vigil. The reasons for my cautioning are offered here, as well as notes on general selection and care for the still curious. Classification: Sea Cucumbers make up the Class Holothuroidea of the "Spiny-skinned-animal" phylum Echinodermata. Other living Classes comprise the familiar Sea Urchins, Sand Dollars, Sea- and Brittle Stars and the Crinoids, aka Sea Lilies and Feather Stars. Holothuroids are the odd-Class out in being secondarily non-radial appearing; often looking like strange ornamental sausages, some translucent, others opaque and warty. Cucumber-like! There are some 900 described species, almost exclusively marine, distributed worldwide. Sea Cucumbers are a major component of the deep sea fauna. Most are black, brown or olive in color, but many brilliant colored and patterned species are encountered. They range in size to barely over an inch (@ 3 cm.) end to end to over a meter in length.

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