deep sea swimming sea cucumber
'Headless chicken monster' filmed with new technology
01:12 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Australian researchers have developed new technology enabling them for the first time to film a deep-sea swimming sea cucumber, also known as a “headless chicken monster,” in Southern Ocean waters off East Antarctica.

The sea cucumber, which has only ever been filmed before in the Gulf of Mexico, was discovered using an underwater camera system developed for commercial long-line fishing by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD).

It is hoped that the pioneering Australian camera technology that captured the rare footage of the organism, Enypniastes eximia, may help the long-running push for the creation of a new Antarctic conservation zone.

The technology is based on a housing which protects the camera and electronics and is “designed to attach to toothfish longlines in the Southern Ocean, so it needs to be extremely durable,” said AAD leader Dirk Welsford, referring to a type of line used for deep sea fishing.

“We needed something that could be thrown from the side of a boat, and would continue operating reliably under extreme pressure in the pitch black for long periods of time.”

Data from the cameras are sent to the international body managing the Southern Ocean, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

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‘Breathtaking’ imagery

“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,” Welsford was quoted as saying in a statement issued by CCAMLR.

“Most importantly, the cameras are providing important information about areas of seafloor that can withstand this type of fishing, and sensitive areas that should be avoided,” he added.

The data collected from the cameras are being presented at the annual CCAMLR meeting starting in Hobart on Monday, where a new maritime protection area will be proposed.