Australian Researchers Capture Footage of a Bulbous, Red, Headless Chicken in Deep Seas Near East Antarctica

[Image Credit: NOAA]

 

Researchers from Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy have spotted on camera a rarely seen sea cucumber (Enypniastes eximia) that looks like a bulbous, red, headless chicken. This weird marine creature was spotted in the in Southern Ocean waters off East Antarctica. Researchers are surprised about the location of the discovery as the spot is thousands of miles away from the Gulf of Mexico where a member of this species was last seen.

According to Antarctica.gov.au, researchers noticed the creature while using a new deep-sea camera technology developed by the Australian Antarctic Division for commercial long-line fishing. This new camera technology will help find vulnerable ecosystems and prevent any damage to the ecosystem by the fishing industry.

Australian Antarctic Division Program Leader Dr Dirk Welsford, said the new technology is enabling researchers capture important data which is being fed into the international body managing the Southern Ocean, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

“We needed something that could be thrown from the side of a boat, and would continue operating reliably under extreme pressure in the pitch black for long periods of time,” Australian Antarctic Division Program Leader Dirk Welsford said.

Welsford said that the footage they got from the cameras is incredible, including species that they never saw in that part of the world.

“We’ve got hours and hours of footage of not much really, and then one of our technicians was sitting there watching this footage and the chicken monster floated past,” Welsford told Australia’s ABC.

“They don’t do much, they lie there and they suck on the sea floor to try to extract food,” Welsford said.

According to NOAA, sea cucumbers prefer spending most of their time on the seafloor to feed off of surface sediments. They swim (with the help of wings like fin) when they want to evade a predator to get somewhere more quickly.  Last year, researchers from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Ship Okeanos Explorer captured footage of the animal in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to The New York Times, a sea cucumber was first spotted in the 1880s in Peruvian waters. It is also sometimes known as the Spanish dancer.

They are echinoderms, a phylum of invertebrate marine animals that also includes sea urchins and starfish.

In the video, the transparent sea cucumber is seen foraging on the ocean floor using its tentacles. It then swims upwards using its fins.

“There are still many, many mysteries in the deep ocean that we’re only just starting to scratch the surface of,” Welsford told ABC.

Australia’s CCAMLR Commissioner, Ms Gillian Slocum, said Australia will continue to lead on the most pressing issues facing the Southern Ocean.

“Australia will again be seeking support for the creation of a new East Antarctic Marine Protected Area,” Ms Slocum said.

“We will also support two other new Marine Protected Areas being proposed this year which will contribute to CCAMLR’s commitment of a representative system of MPAs in the Southern Ocean.”