A group of researchers have filmed a type of sea creature known as a “headless chicken monster” swimming in waters near Antarctica for the first time. The discovery was made as part of an effort to discover new marine conservation areas and protect the deep ocean.
The “monster,” scientific name Enypniastes eximia, is a strange-looking beast to be sure. As the name suggests, it looks like a strange, purple chicken, complete with wings on the side. Instead of a head, however, it’s got a collection of tentacles the creature uses to pick up food from the seafloor.
The headless chicken monster is actually a type of sea cucumber commonly found in the Gulf of Mexico. In this instance, however, it was spotted by a team of researchers from the Australian Antarctic Division. The researchers were filming regions of the seafloor off the eastern coast of Antarctica looking for vulnerable marine habitats and ecosystems. Their project is capturing images and video from parts of the ocean that are almost never explored, which means the team is often making new discoveries about what lives there.
“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,” said program leader Dirk Welsford in a press release.
According to Gillian Slocum, Australia’s commissioner for the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the data collected by the researchers is enough to justify the creation of a new marine protected area in Antarctic waters. “Australia will again be seeking support for the creation of a new East Antarctic Marine Protected Area,” Slocum says.
If the measure is supported by the international commission, which includes countries like the U.S., the U.K., Russia, and the E.U., then this region of the ocean—headless chicken monsters and all—will become a protected region where commercial fishing is not allowed. This measure would protect marine species from overfishing and extinction, ensuring that future generations will be able to enjoy all different types of sea creatures (including headless ones) for generations.