Resembling an alien shopping bag with guts made of shiny Cheetos, a strange creature took center stage in new footage captured by a remotely operated vehicle deep in the Pacific Ocean.
Gliding through the sea at a depth of about 7,221 feet (2,201 meters), the ocean oddball – actually an unknown species of sea cucumber – showed its entrails in the new clip, taken in March by an ROV exploring part of the Pacific Remote. Islands Marine National Monument southeast of Honolulu. The ROV was gliding over an uncharted seamount at Kingman Reef and Palmyra Atoll when operators spotted the creature, said Megan Cook, director of education and outreach for The Ocean Exploration Trust. live nautilus.
“These are always so exciting and spectacular to see because, just, what an incredible animal,” Cook told LiveScience.
Sea cucumbers, or sea cucumbers, are a diverse group, with many species distributed throughout the Central Pacific, Cook said. The one observed by the ROV linked to the crew of the E/V Nautilus research vessel belongs to a family called Elpidiidae, he said. These deep-sea cucumbers are scavengers that feed on marine snow, a shower of skin cells, feces, and bits of dead animals that percolate to the ocean floor.
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Many species of the family Elpidiidae have fin-like or sail-like appendages that enable them to swim short distances. This is a useful adaptation that allows sea cucumbers to cover more ground and seek out new places to graze, Cook said.
To eat, the animal oozes across the seafloor, using its sticky tentacles — the leaf- or star-shaped red fringe around its mouth — to scoop up a mixture of sand and organic material, which it then carries into its mouth. The bright orange intestine, the glowing “Cheetos”, seen inside the transparent creature, then digests the organic material and excretes the inedible sand.
This turns out to be an important storage system for Coal. The ocean floor is the largest carbon sequestration system in landwith carbon-rich organic material that is picked up by bottom dwellers like sea cucumbers and remains in the deep ocean for long periods of time.
“They’re this big scavenger/recycler on the seafloor,” Cook said of deep-sea sea cucumbers.
Some species of sea cucumbers can expel their digestive systems through their anuses when startled, a method that often allows them to escape hungry predators. (The organs soon grow back.) However, it’s unknown if the species in the new video has that trick up its sleeve (or anus), Cook said.
The Nautilus EV broadcasts its ROV dives live, and the current season runs through the end of October. The team will continue to explore the Central Pacific, including many uncharted locations in and around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. Viewers can follow him on Twitter @EVNautiluson Instagram at @NautilusLiveon tik tok @NautilusLiveon Facebook @NautilusLive or on YouTube at /EVNautilus.
“Our next ROV dives will be at Johnston Atoll, which is one of the most remote atolls on the entire planet,” said Cook.
Originally published on Live Science.