I was in Newport Beach last weekend and spent a good chunk of my time rummaging through the tide pools. There were horseshoe crabs everywhere! One of the other interesting little critters that we found was a sea slug.
I remember when I was visiting my grandparents in Florida as a child we saw a dead sea slug with its insides hanging out. My parents told me that this was their special ‘defense mechanism’. It scared the crap out of me, I figured that Florida must be teeming with sea slugs ready to shoot their guts out and sting me.
It turns out that it is not sea slugs but sea cucumbers that do this. Apparently when a predator gets close, the sea cucumbers auto-eviscerate and shoot out their guts in one sticky mass. The predator then must try and get the guts off its face while the sea cucumber ambles away. The stomach can be regrown within a few days which is possibly something that all echinoderms (ie, sea stars, urchins, etc) can do. Interestingly, though, the sea cucumber can go months without eating.
More importantly for us, the sea cucumber entrails are delicious. So much for that defense mechanism. They can’t use their wits to get away either, because they have no brain or even ganglia! As always, youtube has the goods on these guys.