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It's the swimming sea cucumber Enypniastes eximia, and scientists recently captured video of this freaky, hen-mimicking swimmer in the Southern Ocean near eastern Antarctica, where it has never been seen before.

Resembling a chicken with its head cut off, sporting tentacles and waving fins, the creature has a fancy scientific name (Enypniastes eximia), but is more commonly known as the swimming sea cucumber or Spanish dancer, in honor of those frilly fins.

"Some of the footage we are getting back from the cameras is breathtaking", said Dirk Welsford, Australian Antarctic Division Program Leader.

The "monster", unlike most sea cucumbers, swims through the ocean using bat-like wings.

Video of the holothuroid was shared Sunday by the Australian Antarctic Division, which is part of Australia's Department of the Environment and Energy.

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They do know that despite its monstrous appearance, the swimming sea cucumber actually serves an important function by consuming, breaking down and recycling the waste of other animals on the ocean floor.

"We needed something that could be thrown from the side of a boat and would continue operating reliable under extreme pressure in the pitch black for long period of time".

"They don't do much, they lie there and they suck on the sea floor to try to extract food", he said.

Researchers hope the footage will help efforts to create a new conservation zone in the Antarctic.

The video equipment, deployed on fishing gear to depths up to 1.8 miles, feed data to the Commision for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), which manages the Southern Ocean. It will also include proposals to improve the way CCAMLR responds to the impacts of climate change.


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