Sea pig

Scotoplanes globosa

ORDER

Elasipodida

FAMILY

Elpidiidae

TAXONOMY

Elpidia globosa Theel, 1879, Western Pacific Ocean below 2,000 ft (610 m).

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Sea cow.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Transparent, rounded sea cucumber 2-4 in long, with 10 tentacles and a small number of large papillae. The dorsal papillae are of two widely spaced antenna-like pairs. The other papillae are arranged in a row around the edge of the somewhat flattened ventrum. The tentacles are discoid with marginal lobes. Ossicles in the body wall are smooth to spiny rods and smaller C-shaped rods nearly identical to those found in some demo-spongean sponges.

DISTRIBUTION

Nearly cosmopolitan, although apparently absent from the North Atlantic Ocean and the westernmost Pacific Ocean from Central and South America.

HABITAT

Deep ocean bottoms from 1,800 to 2,400 ft (550-730 m). Lives at the shallow end of its bathymetric range at higher latitudes and colder water.

BEHAVIOR

Moves above the sediment with the aid of long, locomotory papillae. Sea pigs aggregate, forming large "herds," sometimes in response to the presence local accumulations of relatively fine sediment. This aggregating behavior, the leg-like papillae, and curved dorsal papillae have earned these animals the alternative name "sea cow."

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Feeds on fine surface sediment on the deep ocean bottom by pushing material into the mouth by means of tentacles with flattened ends. On most specimens a sediment-filled gut is easily seen through the thin body wall.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Very little is known about the reproduction of deep-sea holothuroids, including sea pigs. Maximum egg size is approximately 0.008 in (0.2 mm) in diameter, a characteristic that suggests the larvae are nonfeeding. The ripe gonad may be visible through the body wall near the anterior end.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not listed by the IUCN or under the CITES convention.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

H Holothuria thomasi H Scotoplanes globosa

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