Sea pigs live in all the world’s oceans, but most of us will never see them. These pigs can make up to 95 percent of the total weight of animals on the ocean floor in certain areas.
Sea pigs are small marine animals, a type of sea cucumber, and part of the echinoderms group. Four to six inches long on average, they can fit in the palm of a typical human hand. Sea pigs are a pinkish color and have chubby bodies similar to pigs. Antenna-like structures on their heads help propel sea pigs onward through water.
Sea pigs dwell in the deepest and coldest parts of the ocean. Living as deep as 3.7 miles below sea level, they travel by walking along the ocean floor. Around sea pigs’ mouths are rings of tentacles they use to sift through mud and grab onto food. Sea pigs are most fond of food that has recently fallen from the water’s surface, such as a whale carcass.
Sometimes, sea pigs live in large gatherings of hundreds. This happens when there is an especially plentiful food supply. Often, when gathered, the sea pigs face the ocean’s current to help them detect meals and good feeding sites.
This strange sea creature was discovered over a hundred years ago. Zoologist Hjalmar Théel discovered sea pigs during her around-the-world expedition in 1882, during which she found approximately 65 new species. Sea pigs are also hosts to several parasites, such as small snails or crustaceans that drill holes into sea pigs and feed on them internally.
The sea pig is a weird and plentiful—though almost unheard-of—animal. They play a big role in the Earth’s ecosystem despite their small size.