Scientists have captured a video of a sea cucumber referred to as a “headless chicken monster.” It was captured using new underwater camera technology designed to support marine conservation efforts. The sea cucumber, also known as Enypniastes eximia, was filmed in the Southern Ocean off East Antarctica.
The video of the headless chicken monster was shared on Sunday by the Australian Antarctic Division, an essential part of Australia’s Department of the Environment and Energy. The division noted that Enypniastes eximia had been previously filmed only in the Gulf of Mexico.
This little creature is just one of hundreds of known species of sea cucumber. It spends its days roaming the seafloor using its “modified tube feet” and eating surface sediments, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
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The cucumber can swim by using its fin-like parts, which help it escape predators or float up from the ocean floor. Sea cucumbers are an essential part of the marine ecosystem because they clean the sea floor, and they are often referred to as the vacuum cleaners of the sea. However, overfishing has pushed some species to the brink of extinction.
The Australian Antarctic Division developed the new underwater camera technology for commercial purposes in long-line fishing. The camera collects data for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR,) an international commission tasked with conserving Antarctic marine life. Australia is one of the 25 members of the commission.
“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,” Australian Antarctic Division Program Leader Dirk Welsford said in a statement. “Most importantly, the cameras are providing important information about areas of sea floor that can withstand this type of fishing, and sensitive areas that should be avoided.”
Welsford said the exceptionally durable underwater camera technology is a “really simple and practical solution which is directly contributing to improving sustainable fishing practices.” The data collected by the camera will be presented at the annual CCAMLR meeting in Hobart, Tasmania, which begins today and runs through Nov. 2.
Gillian Slocum, Australia’s CCAMLR comissioner, added in the statement that it is highly important to protect the diverse marine life of the Southern Ocean, “including commercially sought-after species, the harvesting of which must be carefully managed for future generations.”
The video of the headless chicken monster can be viewed here.