The “headless chicken monster”, a bizarre creature just filmed off Antarctica

Why Evolution Is True

I saw this beast on the NBC Evening News last night, and was blown away. At first I thought it was a nudibranch, a member of a group of free-swimming gastropod molluscs (sometimes called “sea slugs”) whose colors and movements have entranced biologists for years (see here for a video). But the beast on the news is in fact a sea cucumber, or holothuroidean, a class of echinoderms whose members are sedentary and mostly sessile on the sea floor. They’re cylindrical filter feeders, and while some can occasionally leap up into the water column, by and large they just lie there like a lox and suck in water and food. (Some are also edible, though it’s one form of Chinese food that I simply cannot abide.)

This species, Enypniastes eximia, has been known since 1882, and is called the “headless chicken monster” because it looks like this:

and…

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