A bizarre creature that scientists nicknamed “headless chicken monster” was seen swimming in the Southern Ocean off East Antarctica for the very first time. The creature was filmed using a camera technology developed by scientists in Australia, per the Independent.
The creature is an unusual species of sea cucumber which is scientifically known as Enypniastes eximia. The creature has previously only been filmed in the Gulf of Mexico at a depth of 2,500m, the report said.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as opposed to their name, sea cucumbers are animals and not vegetables. They can only survive in salt water and are echinoderms – a phylum of marine animals that also includes starfish and urchins. However, they do not have hard spines but have soft, leathery skins.
The data obtained from the underwater cameras will be fed back to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is an international body responsible for managing the Southern Ocean.
“Some of the footage we are getting back from the cameras is breathtaking, including species we have never seen in this part of the world,” said Dr. Dirk Welsford, programme leader at the Australian Antarctic Division, per the Independent.
Dr. Welsford also said that the cameras are protected by a special material and the electronics are designed to “attach to toothfish longlines in the Southern Ocean” therefore, the cameras had to be extremely durable.
Dr. Welford further said that the team needed a camera that could be just thrown into the ocean from the side of a boat, and it would continue to operate without disruption or technical problems for long periods of time. He added that they needed a technology that would work reliably under extreme pressure in the pitch black.
According to Gillian Slocum, Australia’s commissioner at the CCAMLR, Australia is pushing to create a new marine-protected area in the east Antarctic.
“The Southern Ocean is home to an incredible abundance and variety of marine life, including commercially sought-after species, the harvesting of which must be carefully managed for future generations.”
There are some 1,250 known species of sea cucumbers and they are known to feed on small particles like algae, waste materials, or minute marine animals. They are widely eaten in China and other southeast Asian countries for centuries and are considered a delicacy because of their soft texture, dietary and medicinal properties. Some of the species of sea cucumber have also become endangered because of illegal trade, per the Conversation.