Monday, March 14, 2011

Answering the riddle of my strange sea creature

A week ago I found a strange fist-sized sea creature washed ashore on Phillip Island. Today, a marine biologist has identified it as a sea squirt (cunjevoi). I'm feeling excited, because it's a rare find!

This remarkable-looking creature is found mainly in southern Australian waters, on rocky reefs near low water mark. The outer surface is like coarse reddish-orange sandpaper, the perfect 'tunic' to protect the sea squirt from the action of rocks and heavy seas. Only occasionally does the creature lose its grip on a rock and get cast up on the beach. The name sea squirt came about because of the way this creature forcefully squirts out jets of water from its large tube.

The way the sea squirt feeds and takes in oxygen is by means of its twin tubes (siphons) -- one for the intake of water, the other for its exit. Tiny food particles are sieved out (as well as oxygen) and enter a well-developed digestive system.

Anglers cut away the tough outer covering to reveal a soft red meaty interior, which they use as bait for reef-dwelling fish.

The sea squirt lays eggs that hatch as larvae, growing into tadpole-like creatures that eventually attach to rocks. With its twin feeding tubes, nipple-like bumps and red fleshy interior it's a reminder of the primitive beginnings of our species. It was creatures like these (especially barnacles) that helped Charles Darwin come up with his revolutionary theory of evolution.

As I gaze at this rare and strangely beautiful sea creature I'm reminded of my own primitive beginnings, and that's a strange feeling in itself.

1 comment:

  1. Omg thank you. Now l know what it is,l found the same thing yesterday down there.