So, the other day, I was tracking down some of the various places (discussion boards, etc.) my "sea pig" posts had ended up and discovered there was a fairly common discussion that seemed to happen.
They usually go like this:
Person: Wow those are adorable! I can't wait to get one to put in my coral reef tank!
Me: Well, you can't really. They live in deep water.
Person: Does that mean I need to get a bigger tank?
Me: *sigh* (sound of hand slapping against forehead)
Uh...so, Why can't you make sea pigs pets?? There's MANY reasons. I will completely avoid any of the ethical considerations and emphasize a bunch of facts that will be pretty straightforward...
As I mentioned in my original post on sea pigs they live in the deepest part of the ocean, the Abyss.
That's in the neighborhood of 3000 to 5000 METERS down. Easily THREE MILES beneath the surface of the ocean where we live.
That's about THREE times the distance from the edge of the Grand Canyon to its deepest point with ONE important difference. Its filled with WATER. And here is where our story begins!
They Live In The Abyss.
So, here's the deal. Sea pigs live in some of the DEEPEST PLACES ON EARTH and they are UNDERWATER.
Everything is different.
- There is no light.
- Temperature is close to freezing
- Because there is WATER, there is PRESSURE. For every 10 m, the pressure increases by ONE ATMOSPHERE. At 3000 m that means you have a pressure that is the roughly the equivalent of 300 atmospheres or about 317 TONS per square foot (US)!
On the left is a normal styrofoam cup. ON the right is a cup which I took down with me to about 1000 m off the coast of Kona, Hawaii. All the air has been crushed out of it and all you've got remaining is the plastic compressed into a shriveled little husk.
So, What does this mean for the animal??
Sea pigs and other deep-sea animals have EVOLVED to living in these environments over the course of millions of years. That means, almost ALL of their body systems are adapted to working efficiently in this environment under an ideal balance of pressure, temperature and etc.
What seems like a harsh and alien environment to us, is just their natural home. We don't deal well in "their" world any better then they do in ours.
Several reactions of the animal to being brought to the surface include:
- Gas sacs (if any) in the body suddenly expanding.
- Body physiology, including digestive enzymes, gas uptake, waste and metabolic systems, autoimmune systems, would all be completely thrown out of balance.
- The animal would undergo thermal shock (from essentially near freezing temps to surface temps)
|Echinoblog Art Dept!|
I've seen very well-equipped laboratories and aquariums collect and keep some of these invertebrates alive for a short while. They manage to minimize the temperature differential and some species lack either the pressure/temperature dependent body metabolism or gas bladders.
Feeding is also a difficult process to duplicate. As indicated in my original post, sea pigs thrive on fresh, high-quality goo, i.e., organic material that falls to the bottom of the ocean floor.
Duplicating the quality of this food would not be easy and even if you came up with something, you wouldn't know if you were successful for literally MONTHS. These things have such slow metabolisms, that they would slowly starve to death and it would be difficult to determine if they were eating.
And finally... COLLECTION of sea pigs is expensive (and near impossible for most people)
|(from the Galathea 3 website)|
Movies and TV don't often give you a good idea of just how DIFFICULT or EXPENSIVE it is to reach even a 1000 m depth.
If we just talk nets and trawls for example, it can take nearly a FULL DAY just to drop and recover a net to 1000 meters. That generally involves a ship, about a half-dozen fully trained deck hands, plus all the other planning and etc.
|from Popsci-go here for link!|
Or get yourself something a little more conventional...cats need love too!