Published on Tuesday, 16 July 2013 00:00
This is a rock sliced open to reveal its guts. Yes this rock is actually alive. And the weird living rock gets even weirder.
The Pyura chilensis is not an alien species. It is found off the coast of Chile and Peru. While it looks exactly like a rock and is completely immobile like a rock, it is not really a rock. Because it is a living thing with the ability to eat, breathe and reproduce, it’s classified as a type of sea creature or animal. But everyone is calling it a rock anyway.
It eats by inhaling the water through a siphon and filtering out the edible microalgae using a moving layer of mucus in its enlarged pharynx, or branchial sac, before exhaling the water back out the other siphon. The pharynx is connected to the animal’s digestive tract, which basically acts like a mouth.
Their blood is mysteriously clear though their meat is red as you can see from the photo, and it contains extremely high quantities of a rare element called vanadium. Why and how these creatures are able to accumulate such a large amount of vanadium remains unknown.
The Pyura chilensis is born male but becomes hermaphroditic at puberty; this means that it has daddy parts initially but develops mummy parts as well when it’s time for sexing. This makes it able to mate with any other fellow living rock it takes a liking to, or if it is narcissistic or a forever-alone rock, it is able to literally f**k itself. It reproduces by spraying clouds of sperm and eggs into the water and hoping that they fuse with each other to make little rock babies.
“P. chilensis can often be found in densely packed aggregations of thousands or small handfuls of just a few, or they can be found on their own — in which case they must reproduce asexually, as there is no way of them moving to find a mate. This means P. chilensis is hermaphroditic, with the gonads of both a male and a female that can release eggs and sperm simultaneously to meet as a fertile cloud in the surrounding water. If the sperm-egg collisions are successful, they will produce tiny tadpole-like offspring that will eventually settle onto a rock to grow into the adult form.”
And of course, every weird living thing is always considered as a delicacy in some part of the world right? Though this time it is not China... it is Chile. The living rock is fished commercially in Chile and the locals eat them either raw à la sashimi, or cooked in stews with salad and rice because they are supposedly delicious. Non-locals who have tried the delicacy described it to be “bitter” and “soapy” with a “weird iodine flavour”. I would imagine that is what you would expect to taste eating the meat of a rock, only a thousand times more revolting.
Be disturbed. Be very disturbed.
Check out the video below of a German man cheerfully slicing the living rock open and digging out its meat amidst the horror, chagrin, anger, indignation, and yadda yadda yadda of angry YouTubers.