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Scotoplanes globosa1.jpg
Scotoplanes globosa.jpg
Scotoplanes globosa
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Echinodermata
Class: Holothuroidea
Order: Elasipodida
Family: Elpidiidae
Genus: Scotoplanes
Théel, 1882[1]

Scotoplanes, commonly known as the sea pig, is a genus of deep-sea holothurian echinoderm of the family Elpidiidae, order Elasipodida.


Members of the Elpidiidae have particularly enlarged tube feet that have taken on a leg-like appearance, and are the only instance of legged locomotion amongst the holothurians, using water cavities within the skin (rather than within the leg itself) to inflate and deflate the appendages.[2] These legs, in conjunction with their large, plump appearance (about 6 inches/15 cm long) have suggested the common name "sea pig". There are other genera of Elpidiidae with a similar appearance that have also been referred to as "sea pigs".


Scotoplanes live on deep ocean bottoms, specifically on the abyssal plain in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Ocean, typically at depths of over 3000–5000 meters.[3] Some related species can be found in the Antarctic. Scotoplanes (and all deep-sea holothurians) are deposit feeders, and obtain food by extracting organic particles from deep-sea mud. Scotoplanes globosa has been observed to demonstrate strong preferences for rich, organic food that has freshly fallen from the ocean's surface,[4] and uses olfaction to locate preferred food sources such as whale corpses.[5]

Scotoplanes, like many sea cucumbers, often occur in huge densities, sometimes numbering in the hundreds when observed. Early collections have recorded 300 to 600 individual specimens per trawl. Sea pigs are also known to host different parasitic invertebrates, including gastropods (snails) and small tanaid crustaceans.

A living Scotoplanes globosa from Monterey Bay with an unidentified king crab sheltering beneath it


The genus includes the following species:[6]


The main threat against Scotoplanes is deep-sea trawling. A single trawler sweep can catch and kill as many as 300 Scotoplanes. Since these animals make up a substantial part of the nutrition of deep-sea predators, this bycatch represents a serious threat to deep-sea life.


  1. ^ Théel, H (1886). "Report on the Holothurioidea dredged by HMS Challenger during the years 1873-76". 
  2. ^ Hansen, B. (1972). "Photographic evidence of a unique type of walking in deep-sea holothurians". Deep-Sea Research and Oceanographic Abstracts. 19 (6): 461–462. doi:10.1016/0011-7471(72)90056-3. 
  3. ^ Llano, George Biology of the Antarctic Seas III, Volume 11 of Antarctic research series, Volume 3 of Biology of the Antarctic seas, Issue 1579 of Publication (National Research Council (U.S.))) American Geophysical Union, 1967, p. 57
  4. ^ Miller, R. J.; Smith, C. R.; Demaster, D. J.; Fornes, W. L. (2000). "Feeding selectivity and rapid particle processing by deep-sea megafaunal deposit feeders: A 234Th tracer approach". Journal of Marine Research. 58 (4): 653. doi:10.1357/002224000321511061. 
  5. ^ Pawson, DL; Vance, DJ (2005). "Rynkatorpa felderi, new species, from a bathyal hydrocarbon seep in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea: Apodida)". Zootaxa. Magnolia Press. 1050: 15–20. 
  6. ^ – Scotoplanes

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

Ruhl, Henry A., and Kenneth L. Smith, Jr. "Go to Science." Science Magazine: Sign In. Science., 23 July 2004. Web. 1 May 2015.


  1. ^ Ruhl, Henry A.; Smith, Kenneth L. Jr. (23 July 2004). "Shifts in Deep-Sea Community Structure Linked to Climate and Food Supply". Science. 305 (5683): 513–515. doi:10.1126/science.1099759. Retrieved 1 May 2015.