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The ugliest creature in the sea?


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Is this the ugliest creature beneath the waves? Say hello to the plump pink sea pig



By Gavin Allen

Last updated at 4:03 PM on 22nd September 2010




Depending on your point of view, this alien-looking entity might resemble a potato that's been left in the cupboard too long and sprouted shoots.

You could mistake it for a fat slug with legs. You might even think it's cute.

But these fascinating creatures are sea pigs, and they lives 1,000 metres down on the deep sea bed.


article-1314184-0B4C7215000005DC-62_634x467.jpg Oink! Sea pigs are usually found in groups of 300 to 600 on ocean floors all over the world


The bizarre looking life forms are scotoplanes, but earned their nicknames because of their little legs and plump, pinkish appearance.

However, the 'legs', arranged in a circular row around the its base, are actually elongated feet which are used to push food into their mouths.

Sea pigs feed on organic particles which they extract from deep sea mud and studies have shown a particular taste for food that has freshly fallen from the ocean's surface.


article-1314184-0B4C7219000005DC-649_634x435.jpg That's handy: Sea pigs are big enough to hold in the open palm of your hand



article-1314184-0B4C720D000005DC-913_634x367.jpg At home: Sea pigs grow into a weird and wonderful variety of shapes on the sea bed


And what might appear to be antennae on the front of the head are also actually feet, which help them tread water in the oceans of the world.

About the right size to hold in the open palm of your hand, sea pigs are classed as Holothurians from a division of creatures called Echinodermata, popularly known as sea cucumbers.

article-1314184-0B4C721D000005DC-681_306x423.jpg Upturned: From underneath you can see how sea pigs use a row of feet to push food into their mouths


They live alongside starfish, coral, clams, sponges and sea urchins and thrive best on the abyssal plains of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.

Scientists from the New Zealand’s National Institute Of Water And Atmospheric Pressure (NIWA) collected 30,000 deep sea animals including the sea pigs during a marine census of southern Antarctica.

Sea pigs abound in most parts of the world but not in the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean or eastern part of Pacific Ocean, or in central and South America.

They come in a variety of shapes but all have a thin exoskeleton - a sort of natural armour - just beneath the skin.

They behave like slugs do above sea level and while they may look exotic and rare they are not an endangered species.

On the contrary, sea pigs reproduce freely and form the majority of deep sea marine population.

They are often found in huge numbers with early collections yielding 300 to 600 per trawl.

However, trawling is the main threat to the creatures and, being a substantial part of the nutrition of deep sea predators, that represents a serious threat to deep sea life.

If anyone feels sympathy for the put-upon sea pig, these less than beautiful creatures, then you'll be pleased to know they are not considered a threat to humans.

But if you want one as a pet you'll need a pretty deep fishbowl.


article-1314184-0B4C7211000005DC-253_634x383.jpg What a set of pins: Sea pigs' feet can look like legs because they grow to such varying lengths



article-1314184-0B4C7209000005DC-882_634x383.jpg Rulers of the deep sea: This little piggy measures around 12cm




Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1314184/Sea-pigs-The-ugliest-creature-beneath-waves.html#ixzz10HCnXSLB

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