Despite the name, the Sea Pig, or Scotoplanes, is actually a type of sea cucumber. It is part of the Elpidiidae family. These incredible creatures live at extreme depths on the bottom of the ocean, across many of the world’s oceans.
The sea pig is well-known for its enlarged tube feet, which are inflatable appendages. They use their tentacles to both feed and navigate their habitat. Their ring of feeding tentacles helps their efficiency in consuming the abundance of small nutrient sources within the sand. The sea pig can grow to sizes up to 15cm long and have the majority of its mass in the middle of the body, with the smallest near their anuses. They also possess ten tentacles around the mouth.
The deep-sea mud is vital to their survival as the sea pig acts like a hoover, extracting organic particles from the mud. Its pattern of feeding consists of them moving along the seafloor on the top layer of ocean sediment and taking the food that comes from the disruption. They use their sense of smell to locate fresh, rich food sources that have come down from the surface of the water. They have been known to feed on sources such as whale corpses.
Sea pigs typically inhabit the deep-sea mud on the ocean floor. Their natural habitat is the deepest parts of the ocean, such as the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In order to remain at optimal depths, the sea pig lacks a respiratory tree. Rather than having traditional lungs, it breathes from its anus. This stops them from floating toward the surface of the water. If this was to happen, they would break down.
The sea pig has a very interesting reproductive system. Unlike a traditional setup, the male has a single testis, with the female possessing one ovary.
The sea pig, like many sea creatures, has a constant threat from predators. However, like any evolved animal, the sea pig has developed strategies to defend itself from threats from above. Their skin contains holothurin, a toxic chemical that, when released, can cause serious harm to other animals. This allows them to feed more efficiently.
Threats to human
Like many sea cucumbers and coral-based animals, the sea pig is hardly a threat to humans. Unless a diver was to attempt to travel to extreme depths and touch them, it would be near impossible for the sea pig to cause harm to a human. Theoretically, if a human was to touch a sea pig, they might be affected by the toxic chemicals released by its defense mechanism. But this would most likely never happen.
Facts about the Sea Pig
- Sea pigs are hosts to parasitic organisms, such as gastropods (small snails) and small crustaceans like juvenile crabs
- They release a toxic chemical called holothurin to defend against predators
- They have feelers to increase sensory function, allowing them to locate an easy meal
Can sea pigs be pets?
Having a sea pig as a household pet would be near impossible. Due to the way their anatomy is designed, they would simply disintegrate once you brought them to the surface of the water. Thus, they have to remain in their deep-sea habitat.
Can you eat a sea pig?
Even if you hadn’t eaten for many days, it wouldn’t be recommended to eat a sea pig. Even the hungriest of predators stay clear of them. This is due to the toxic chemical holothurin they release when under attack.
Can sea pigs smell?
Although confusing to look at, sea pigs do have the ability to smell their surroundings. By using the tentacles, or legs, around the top of their head, they can navigate and find food sources using their sense of smell.
Can sea pigs swim?
Although they are always in a water-based habitat, surprisingly, sea pigs do not swim to move around. Instead, they hover along the deep-sea floor using their tube-like feet.