Resembling an alien shopping bag with guts made of shiny Cheetos, a bizarre creature has taken center stage in new footage captured by a remote-controlled vehicle deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Sliding through the sea at a depth of around 7,221 feet (2,201 meters), the ocean crank – actually an unknown species of sea cucumber – had its innards exposed in the new clip, taken in March by a ROV exploring part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument southeast of Honolulu. The ROV was gliding over an unexplored seamount at Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll when operators spotted the creature, said Megan Cook, director of education and outreach at The Ocean Exploration. Trust. Nautilus live.
“These are always so exciting and spectacular to see because – just, what an amazing animal,” Cook told Live Science.
Sea cucumbers, or sea cucumbers, are a diverse group, with many species distributed across the central Pacific, Cook said. The one spotted by the ROV linked to the crew of the E/V Nautilus research vessel belongs to a family called Elpidiidae, she said. These cucumbers of the deep are scavengers that feed on sea snow, a shower of skin cells, poo, and bits of dead animals that seep down to the ocean floor.
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Many species of the family Elpidiidae have appendages that resemble fins or sails that allow them to swim short distances. This is a useful adaptation that allows sea cucumbers to cover more ground and seek out new pastures, Cook said.
To eat, the animal oozes onto the seabed, using its sticky tentacles – the red leaf- or star-shaped fringe around its mouth – to scoop up a mixture of sand and organic matter, which it then carries to his mouth. The bright orange gut – the glowing “Cheetos” – seen inside the transparent creature then digests organic matter, excreting the inedible sand.
It turns out to be an important storage system for carbon. The ocean floor is the largest carbon sequestration system on Earthcarbon-rich organic materials being scavenged by seabed dwellers like sea cucumbers and remaining deep in the ocean for long periods of time.
“They’re this big scavenger/recycler on the seabed,” Cook said of deep-sea sea cucumbers.
Some sea cucumber species can eject their digestive tracts through their anus when frightened, a method that often allows them to escape hungry predators. (Organs grow back quickly.) However, it’s unclear whether the species in the new video has this trick up its sleeve (or its anus), Cook said.
The EV Nautilus broadcasts its ROV dives live, and the current season ends at the end of October. The team will continue to explore the central Pacific, including many unexplored places in the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument and surrounding areas. Viewers can follow on Twitter @EVNautiluson Instagram at @NautilusLiveon TikTok @NautilusLiveon Facebook @NautilusLive or on YouTube at /EVNautilus.
“Our next ROV dives will be on Johnston Atoll, which is one of the most remote atolls on the planet,” Cook said.
Originally posted on Live Science.