Whale skeleton being colonized and eaten by by critters on the seafloor of Monterey canyon. In this scene one can see dozens of Sea Pigs (Scotoplanes sp.), a kind of deep sea sea cucumber with little tentacles.
This video uses undersea footage from MBARI’s remotely-operated vehicles to show the various challenges that midwater and deep-sea organisms face, and the adaptations they have developed in order to survive in this inhospitable environment. George Matsumoto, Linda Kuhnz, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) and Edith Widder, Erika Raymond Ocean Research and Conservation Association (ORCA), Copyright 2009
from Report on the scientific results of the voyage of H.M.S. Challenger during the years 1873-76 : under the command of Captain George S. Nares, R.N., F.R.S. and Captain Frank Turle Thomson, R.N (1882)
“Scotoplanes live in the ABYSS. That’s not just a little deep..that’s the DEEPEST part of the ocean on the flat oceanic plains. Its not unusual for sea pigs to be collected from over 6000 meters!!! How deep is that? That’s about 3.7 miles DOWN (by contrast the Grand Canyon at its deepest point is only about 1.1 miles deep). Some can be found shallower..but they live across a wide bathymetric range.
Scotoplanes don’t just occur individually either. Collections and observations of these animals show that they often number in the hundreds. Early trawling records have recorded some 300-600 specimens per trawl…”
Scotoplanes, the sea pig, is a marine invertebrate animal. It is a genus of deep-seaholothurian (Class Holothuroidea in the phylum Echinodermata-popularly known as sea cucumbers) in the family Elpidiidae (order Elasiopoda).
Members of the Elpidiidae have particularly enlarged tube feet that have taken on a leg-like appearance, and are the only instance of legged locomotion amongst the holothurians, using water cavities within the skin (rather than within the leg itself) to inflate and deflate the appendages. These legs, in conjunction with their large, plump appearance have suggested the common name “sea pig”. There are other genera of Elpidiidae with a similar appearance that have also been referred to as “sea pigs”…
Sea pigs (Scotoplanes globosa) are a deep sea-dwelling species of sea cucumber. They have several squatty little legs and a giant mouth with which they eat detritus that drops down from the ocean surface. Scotoplanes sea pigs (sometimes other species that look similar are called sea pig) live in the deepest abyss, up to 3.7 miles under the ocean surface. In contrast, the deepest part of the Grand Canyon is only 1.1 miles down! And though scientists know very little about their ecology and behavior, since it’s a bit difficult to study creatures living that far down, they often find them hanging about in great numbers…
New Zealand biologist Sadie Mills holds a “Sea Pig” (Protelpidia murrayi), which is a different species than what is more commonly called a sea pig, found off the Antarctic shelf - (photo: Richard O’Driscoll, New Zealand IPY-Census of Antarctic Marine Life)