FromQuarkstoQuasars

Pyura Chilensis: Meet the Living Rock

Jolene CreightonDecember 29th 2014
Pyura_chilensis
Image Credit: Arvid Puschnig

It may look like an alien rock creature—one that has been horribly dissected. However, this is Pyura Chilensis, a kind of sea creature that lives on the rocky coast of Chile and Peru. Specifically, it is a filter feeder (a non-moving, sac-like marine invertebrate). That’s right, this strange organism is found on Earth. In fact, many people who live along the coasts where the creature thrives use it as a food source.

In the video below, you can see an individual opening one of these creatures. It is certainly not for everyone, and if you go to the comments section on YouTube (a perilous place, indeed), you will see that many, many people have voiced their concern. That said, individuals are free to make their own choices about whether or not they wish to see it, and it does provide a better view of how these creatures are actually structured. So we’ve provided the video below.

The outside is surrounded in tunicin, which is a matrix of molecules that help the animal attach itself to a hard surface. The insides of this tunicin are lined with an epidermis and a muscular band, which is obviously much softer.

Interestingly, P. chilensis can reproduce without a mate, as they are hermaphroditic. They have the gonads of both a male and a female. This enables them to release eggs and sperm at the same time. If successful, these will produce tiny tadpole-like offspring that will eventually settle onto a rock to grow into the adult form.

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