Did you know there is a weird type of sea cucumber, called a sea pig, that snuffles around on the bottom of the ocean looking for food? The sea pig (Scotoplanes globosa) lives in really deep areas of the ocean, and it feeds on algae and animals that die and sink to the ocean floor. When a large animal, like a whale, dies and sinks, huge herds of sea pigs gather around it to feed on the decaying matter.
A particularly interesting thing about sea pigs is that, for some reason, they are often seen with a juvenile king crab clinging to them (in the photo below, the juvenile crab is beneath the sea pig, and you can see two of its pink legs grasping the sea pig's body). No one knows for sure why. One hypothesis is that the young crab is protected from predators when near the sea pig, as sea pigs secrete toxic chemicals from their skin. Predators don't like that stuff, but the young king crabs don't seem to care.
So, perhaps sea pigs are crab babysitters.
- Sea pig - NOAA/MBARI, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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