The so-called 'Headless Chicken Monster' may be a viral sensation but this oddly-proportioned oceanic sea cucumber just wants to be left alone.
“What's in a name,” indeed. Kudos to the Antarctic Division of Australia's Department of the Environment and Energy for coming up with a uniquely effective way to publicize some nifty new underwater camera technology... and it wasn't even planned!
Sure, the research team led by Dr Dirk Welsford expected to film something after dropping a toughened camera designed to be attached to commercial toothfish longlines into the largely-unexplored deep Southern Ocean off East Antarctica. What they didn't expect was Enypniastes eximia, known colloquially as the “Headless Chicken Monster”, a species of sea cucumber only ever filmed before thousands of miles away in the Gulf of Mexico.
The frigid ocean waters off Antarctica are an ideal testing ground for the new “super-strengthened” cameras (above) designed and manufactured at the Australian Antarctic Division's headquarters in Kingston, Tasmania.
“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,” explained Dr Welsford.
“Some of the footage we are getting back from the cameras is breathtaking,” he added, “including species we have never seen in this part of the world.” Cue the Headless Chicken Monster, a deep-sea swimming sea cucumber previously encountered by the NOAA's research vessel Okeanos Explorer during a 2017 deep dive in the Gulf of Mexico.
Now that its work publicizing the AAD and NOAA is done, what's next for the Headless Chicken Monster? Mascot for a minor league baseball team, perhaps? As long as it doesn't end up breaded as nuggets, we're good.