The Sea Pig is the common name of a genus of deep-sea holothurian echinoderms which obviously resemble a pig. However, not all species bear this resemblance.
Members of this genus have also evolved oversized tube feet, giving them the appearance of actual legs. Depending upon the species, the Sea Pig will possess between 5-7 pairs of these feet.
What appears to be antennae, are actually modified tube feet as well.
Most species average around 6 in. (15 cm) in length. They are among the unique creatures in the ocean.
Sea Pig Physiology and Ecology
The Sea Pig resides on the ocean floor, typically at extreme depths exceeding 3,280 ft (1,000 m). They most commonly appear on the abyssal plain in the Pacific, Indian, and Atlantic Oceans. A few species even adapted to life in the Antarctic waters.
The Sea Pig is a deposit feeder and feeds by using olfaction to locate their food sources and then extracting particles of detritus from the ocean bottom. They will often gather in great numbers, especially around larger corpses.
Sea Pig Threats
The principal threat to the survival of the Sea Pig comes from deep-sea trawling which is a detrimental fishing practice negatively affecting many ocean species. They remain slow-moving creatures so combined with their tendency to gather in numbers, they are especially susceptible to this threat.
In fact, one trawler may catch and destroy as many as 300 of them in a single action.
The animal is a principal food source for many deep-sea predators. Thus, these losses pose a significant threat to their survival as well.
A second threat is their consumption by humans. Unfortunately, the Japanese people often consider the animal a delicacy.