Throughout American popular culture apples have had a unique place that sets them apart from other fruits. Even, the earliest of Biblical stories includes tales of an apple given from Eve to Adam in the garden. Apples appear in stories from Johnny Appleseed who traveled around town tossing out apple seeds to William Tell who famously split an apple placed on his son’s head in order to avoid death.
One of Disney’s most popular movies, Snow White portrays a wicked witch who gives a poisoned apple to “the fairest of them all”. As each New Year approaches we all look to the “Big Apple”, New York City, to watch the ball drop signaling the start of another calendar year. So we shouldn’t be at all surprised that apples appear in the sea, or should we? Don’t be fooled like Snow White was, because although quite beautiful in appearance, the Sea apple, isn’t an apple at all, but a Sea cucumber, and it can be poisonous!
At The Dallas World Aquarium the Sea apple, Genus Pseudocolochirus can be found in the micro-aquarium beside the Solomon Islands exhibit. The colorful invertebrates are echinoderms, relatives of other sea cucumbers and sea stars. Their colorful bodies are equipped with numerous tube feet (tiny suction cups) that help them remain attached to the substrate. They are suspension feeders and have very ornate, branched feeding tentacles that collect suspended plankton and algae from the water. The most colorful Sea apples are found in Australia, but they are more commonly available from Indonesian waters.
Don’t let the beauty of the Sea apple trick you into believing that their beauty makes them as delicious as the fruit for which they are named. In nature, such flamboyant coloration can be deadly, and that is true for the Sea apple to be sure! Their internal organs can be released when stressed or threatened and along with that, a powerful toxin is also released, which can kill other inhabitants of the aquarium. So, the Sea apple should only be kept by experienced reef aquarists and water quality is of utmost importance in their care.
The next time you visit The Dallas World Aquarium, make sure you stop by and take a peak at these deadly beauties and remember in this case, an apple a day may not keep the doctor away!