Episode 230 – Sea Robin: Walking Ray of Sunshine

“…and today we’re talking about the marine of the marina that can swim, fly, and crawl. But more on that later.”

The ocean is a breeding ground for aberrant creations. Pressure and struggle has formed some of the most peculiar Pisces on the planet. But one fish wanted so badly to skitter along the ocean floor like a crab, they could almost reach out and touch it. But not with a fin, with something much more bizarre. The sea robin may be bizarre, but it’s no deep cut of the deep, it’s one of the most common family of fish to be found. But sometimes when circumstances get you down, you just have to crawl towards Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

This was a suggestion from Eliana!

Episode 213 – Sea Cucumber: Liquid Luck

“…and today we’re talking about the most romantic sea creature. A brown lump! But more on that later.”

At the bottom of the ocean, a brown lump inches along the coral and sands, keeping its notable lack of eyes out for potential predators. But when trouble does come a-sniffin, the slow sea cucumber has a defense mechanism that takes a heavy toll. Using an ability unique to its phylum, this ocean pickle has a pretty nasty way of staying mostly off the menu. But sometimes you just need to win a pyrrhic victory like the sea cucumber here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • Sea cucumbers are fairly simple lifeforms and they are called cucumbers because of their oval shape.
  • The brown sea cucumber has a half dome shape with the middle rising and tapering to the sides. 
  • Their bodies are covered in evenly spaced bumps or cones that are soft, though they look like spikes.
  • Most of the time they are brown, though some could be dark greenish with yellow spikes. 
  • Males and females are almost identical, except when it’s mating time. 
    • Cucumber reproductive organs are feathery or spaghetti like appendages that are kept inside the body and can be extended out. 
    • When they are ready, which is grotesquely called ripe, they change color. 
    • Males are white and females are orange. 

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro! 

  1. Iguana
  2. Bull Snake
  3. Soft shelled sea turtle
  4. Komodo dragon


  • 40 cm (15 inches)
  • How many sea cucumbers go into the average depth of the shallowest ocean?
  • Hint: According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the arctic ocean is the smallest and shallowest ocean in the world. 
  • 14,602.368 sea cucumbers. The arctic has an average depth of 12,000 ft (3,657 m).


  • 830 grams (1.8 pounds)
  • How many brown sea cucumbers go into the James Webb Space Telescope weight on earth?
  • Hint: Webb has reached the lagrange point two where it is waiting while it cools down before beginning it’s operations. It’s unique among other space telescopes for its ability to see in infrared better than other telescopes like hubble. Infrared technology works better in cool temperatures, which is why Webb has a sophisticated sun shield. One of it’s primary missions is to take deep space pictures, but it may also be able to see dark objects within the solar system, like the theorized Planet X that may be a gravitational influence in the Kuiper belt.
  • 7,944.4 cucumbers. The James Webb Space Telescope is 14,300 lbs (6,486 kilograms).

Fast Facts

Sea cucumbers are ocean cleaners. They typically feed on detritus, tiny animals, and algae and they leave behind neat waste on the ocean floor. So, in a sense they are trash collectors and compactors. 

They get around with tube feet. Even though they don’t have a muscular system , they move their feet with hydraulics. They have a water vascular system that can inflate and deflate appendages to move them.

Even species without tube feet can contract their bodies to move on the seafloor.

They sort of have bones and a skeleton but not really. Cucumbers have microscopic ossicles that are embedded just beneath the skin to give their bodies some structure and protection. 

Many sea cucumbers have respiratory systems that are branched respiratory trees that sap oxygen out of the water.

Sea cucumbers are brainless, but they do have some nerve

They are a highly sought after food source in east asia, and fishing all over the world is unsustainable. For that reason, they are listed as endangered on the Red List.

Major Fact: Liquid Luck

All echinoderms have something called mutable collagenous tissues (MCT) that act like the nanobots in Marvel. They’re tissues that can change their properties to serve whatever the plot demands. Starfish use it to detach and regenerate their limbs. Sea fans can stiffen to get better filter feeding. Sand dollars can regrow their teeth with it.

Sea cucumbers use MCTs to eviscerate their bowels.

Here is the sentence from the European Synchrotron that sums it up in a nice, understandable way: At the ultrastructural level, MCT consists of spindle-shaped collagen fibrils in an interfibrillar matrix of proteoglycans and noncollageneous proteins like tensilin and stiparin, which along with fibrillin-rich microfibrils comprise the extracellular matrix.

Basically, all animals are made up of quite a bit of collagen, which makes our bones, ligaments, and skin. However, in most things with collagen, like humans, the collagen takes a long time to change once it’s formed.

Things like muscle strengthening or deterioration as well as some of the changes that women undergo during pregnancy are due to gradual changes in collagen. Sea cucumbers can make these changes in seconds.

It also allows them to liquify their intestines and shoot them out of their mouths in order to give the predator something to feed on while the cucumber escapes.

It’s horrifying lovecraftian goodness.

Ending: So  get a good score on your MCTs, and always remember to expel your liquid intestines out of your mouth if someone tries to eat you like the sea cucumber here in LDT.

Episode 189 – Japanese Sleeper Ray: A Shocking Pancake

“…and today we’re talking about a spicy dish. But more on that later.”

Deep in the water where the fish hang out, lives a small sleepy saucer we know not too much about

He’s a zap zap fish with a zap zap belly

And his neat electric organs turn your insides into jelly

He hides beneath the sand and waits for food to flutter by

So he can snatch it up and wait for another passerby

Cause he’s a zap zap fish with a zap zap belly

And it’s just how he survives in Life Death and Taxonomy

Episode 173 – Bluestreak Cleaner Wrasse: The King of Cleaners

“…and today we’re talking about a fish that enjoys working at the carwash. More on that later.”

When you run a lucrative maritime cleaning service, you gotta protect your turf. The dominant bluestreak cleaner wrasse defends its territory, its business, and its family on a daily basis. But when the don disappears, it’s up to one of his leading ladies to fill his shoes. But being willing to fill any role is part of surviving here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 167 – Giant Oarfish: Seismic Sensitivity?

“…and today we’re talking about the longest boy in the ocean. But more on that later.”

Earthquakes are some of the most destructive events on this planet, snuffing out lives by the thousands and destroying entire cities. The worst part is, we can’t really predict them in advance-or can we? The elusive oarfish is often considered an incredibly long harbinger of earthquakes, and some people see sightings of them as a sign of impending disaster. Let’s find out just how much truth there is to this here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 157 – Blobfish: Blobby Fisher

“…and today we’re talking about a waterlogged football with eyes and a taste for shrimp. But more on that later.”

The blobfish might be the subject of cruel internet memes for many a year, but that digital ridicule may be unduly bestowed upon our deep-sea friend. He may look goofy, but that’s just because he’s far outside his natural habitat. Living at the bottom of the ocean, the blobfish actually has a pretty remarkable way of keeping it all together here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 153 – Blanket Octopus: Let the Octopus Win

“…Today we’re talking about a cephalopod that wears a beautiful gown. But more on that later.”

The ocean is home to many a strange and wondrous creature, but few are so strange as the blanket octopus. Worthy of its name, the blocktopus drifts and flutters with dazzling colors across the pelagic seas. But unfurling your snuggie has consequences in the deep blue, so the blanket octopus needs to have some improvised weapons at its disposal. But that’s just how you survive here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.

Episode 143 – Barreleye: The Spookiest Fish

“…and today we’re talking about a mysterious organic, deep-diving submarine. But more on that later.”

Deep down at the bottom of the ocean, there sits an alien monster fish that stares up straight through its own skull to spy prey: the barreleye. How does it do this? By being one of the weirdest creatures alive, even for deep-sea animals—and that’s saying something! But looking strange is just a fortunate side effect of being an empty-headed harbinger of jellyfish death from below here in LDT.

Episode 140 – Mako Shark: Hot-Blooded Hotrod

Sharks are a primordial design. A torpedo built to catch and shred prey. These cold black eyes, like a doll’s eyes, are nothing but dark pools of basic, rudimentary instinct, right? Well some sharks are built differently than their kin. The mako shark is one of a few fish with an interesting adaptation that is foreign among fish. These hot-blooded predators of the temperate ocean have an ability that gives them an edge against their most elusive food sources. Sometimes the only way to survive is chase down and catch Life, Death, and Taxonomy…

Episode 139 – Giant Manta Ray: A Focused Fish

“…and today we’re talking about a buccal pumping pup sucking histotroph in huge chunks. That sentence will only get grosser when you know what those words mean. But more on that later…”

Sometimes the biggest giants are the gentlest giants. But this gentle giant is also a genius giant. While the oceanic manta ray might not be smarter than a fifth-grader, it does use its brain in ways that would make other fish extremely sad and jealous if they had any feelings. In fact, it’s those feelings that make the manta ray a prime candidate for smartest swimming blanket. But when you’re the biggest fish in the pond, you can afford a little self-awareness here in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.