• Camron Davis

'Headless Chicken Monster' found in the arctic

A team of Australian researchers announced Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018, that a "headless chicken monster" was spotted swimming in the Antarctic Ocean. The "monster" is actually a sea cucumber known as Enypniastes eximia, and it has a webbed veil and a transparent body to show its internal organs. It can measure up to nine inches and is extremely active for a sea cucumber, according to USA Today.

In a release by the Australian Government, it was said that this is the first time the specimen was spotted swimming in Southern ocean waters. According to the Australian Antarctic Division, which is part of the Australian Department of Environment and Energy, the creature had only been previously spotted in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the creature spends most of its time buoying along the ocean floor and using its "modified tube-feet" to feed along the ocean sediments. The sea cucumber is capable of actual swimming and uses its "veil" to propel itself off of the ocean floor to escape predators."

Sea cucumbers play a vital role in the oceanic ecosystem as they are commonly referred to as the "vacuum cleaner of the sea" but unfortunately "some of them are on the brink of extinction as a result of over-fishing."

Scientists were able to capture video of the creature using "new technology attached to toothfish longlines." The tech is surprisingly similar to that of a compact digital camera or a mobile phone, according to Gizmodo.

Leader of the Australian Antarctic Division Program, Dirk Welsford, said that "Some of the footage we are getting back from the cameras is breathtaking, including species we have never seen in this part of the world."

Welsford went on to say that "For me what is remarkable about this discovery is that we had no idea that this organism would be found in the Southern Ocean. All the previous specimens we could find records of are from further north than where we recorded it at Heard Island, it highlights how little we know about the deep ocean, particularly down south."

Welsford told Gizmodo that "Until recently, gear that could survive the depths where the 'Headless Chicken Monster' lives required specialized technicians to operate, and sometimes specialized vessels to launch from, however we have managed to design a camera that is strong enough to go to 3000m and be run by crew on fishing vessels, so we have the potential to deploy cameras and collect data from a much wider range of vessels and places.''

He further elaborated, stating that "We needed something that could be thrown from the side of a boat and would continue operating reliably under extreme pressure in the pitch black for long periods of time."

Welsford and his division use the tech to collect data, which is then reported to The Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which is ''an international commission that focuses on conserving Antarctic marine life.''

The cameras are revealing new information about which spots can withstand fishing and "sensitive areas that should be avoided."