The sea holds some of the world’s most interesting creatures – but this “living rock” is one of the strangest we’ve ever seen. Pyura chilensis is a non-moving sea creature that lives along the coasts of Peru and Chile and is said to be delicious, despite looking exactly like an igneous rock.
The amazing creature satiates itself by taking in nutrient-rich seawater and absorbing microorganisms as food as the water filters through its body. They spend their lives attached to rocks along the ocean floor which look remarkably like their own bodies. Their bodies are lined with a muscular band beneath an epidermis, and they are covered with tunic, making them part of the tunicin family. The creatures are also hermaphroditic – they are born as a male, then produces eggs at puberty. Both eggs and sperm are released and either self-fertilized, or fertilized by nearby Pyura chilensis. Self-fertilized offspring are just as strong as cross-fertilized ones.
Although Pyura chilensis may look like bloody rocks, locals eat the weird looking creatures both raw and cooked. Their clear blood is unusually high in vanadium, a heavy metal that can be toxic in large doses. They are described as having a bitter, iodine flavor, and the meat is often tossed with onion, cilantro and lemon, accompanied by bread. The next time you’re walking through what you think are rocks on the ocean floor, they really may be these mysterious living rocks with jelly red guts.
Images © Stephane Batigne, ©Maria Garrido, ©Chilereisen and Youtube