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Scotoplanes globosa1.jpg
Scotoplanes globosa.jpg
Scotoplanes globosa
Scientific classification

Théel, 1882[1]

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


Members of the Elpidiidae have particularly enlarged tube "feet" that have taken on a leg-like appearance, using water cavities within the skin to inflate and deflate the appendages to move.[2] The "horns" on its back are also actually legs. Scotoplanes modify surficial elements in the ocean by moving through the sediment like a bulldozer. While the Scotoplanes move through the sediment, they disrupt the surface and the resident infauna as it feeds.[3]


Scotoplanes live on deep ocean bottoms, specifically on the abyssal plain in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, typically at depths of over 1,200[4]–5,000 metres.[5] 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,[6] and uses olfaction to locate preferred food sources such as whale corpses.[7] Scotoplanes have very fragile bodies; if they get caught in a trawler they break apart like jell-o. Scotoplanes, like many sea cucumbers, often occur in huge densities, sometimes numbering in the hundreds when observed. Early collections have recorded groups of up to 300-600 individuals. Sea pigs are also known to host different parasitic invertebrates, including gastropods (snails) and small tanaid crustaceans.[citation needed]

A living Scotoplanes from Monterey Bay with a juvenile Neolithodes diomedae king crab sheltering beneath it at a depth of approx. 1260 metres. Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, 2016.

Scotoplanes sp, like other sea cucumbers, host parasitic and commensal organisms. For example, it provides a shelter to juvenile crabs, Neolithodes diomedeae. It is known that such relationship benefits the crabs because they can reduce risks of predation when they are under the shelter.[8]


Scotoplanes can be as big as up to 4-6" (15 cm) long.[9]


The genus includes the following species:[10]

A dead and shriveled-up Scotoplanes globosa next to a ruler (in centimeters).


  1. ^ Théel, H (1886). "Report on the Holothurioidea dredged by HMS Challenger during the years 1873-76". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  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. Bibcode:1972DSROA..19..461H. doi:10.1016/0011-7471(72)90056-3.
  3. ^ Blake, James A.; Maciolek, Nancy J.; Ota, Allan Y.; Williams, Isabelle P. (2009-09-01). "Long-term benthic infaunal monitoring at a deep-ocean dredged material disposal site off Northern California". Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography. 56 (19–20): 1775–1803. Bibcode:2009DSRII..56.1775B. doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2009.05.021.
  4. ^ Barry, James P.; Taylor, Josi R.; Kuhnz, Linda A.; De Vogelaere, Andrew P. (2016-10-01). "Symbiosis between the holothurian Scotoplanes sp. A and the lithodid crab Neolithodes diomedeae on a featureless bathyal sediment plain". Marine Ecology. 38 (2): n/a. doi:10.1111/maec.12396. ISSN 1439-0485.
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ Pawson, DL; Vance, DJ (2005). "Rynkatorpa felderi, new species, from a bathyal hydrocarbon seep in the northern Gulf of Mexico (Echinodermata: Holothuroidea: Apodida)". Zootaxa. 1050: 15–20. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.1050.1.2.
  8. ^ Barry, James P.; Taylor, Josi R.; Kuhnz, Linda A.; De Vogelaere, Andrew P. (2017). "Symbiosis between the holothurian Scotoplanes sp. A and the lithodid crab Neolithodes diomedeae on a featureless bathyal sediment plain". Marine Ecology. 38 (2): e12396. Bibcode:2017MarEc..38E2396B. doi:10.1111/maec.12396.
  9. ^ Bates, Mary (2014-06-16). "The Creature Feature: 10 Fun Facts About Sea Pigs". Wired. ISSN 1059-1028. Retrieved 2020-05-21.
  10. ^ – 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]

  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. Bibcode:2004Sci...305..513R. doi:10.1126/science.1099759. PMID 15273392.