What’s Actually Going on with This Rock?

Here are some of the most interesting facts
about The Living Rock! Wait until you find out how this thing actually
tastes! 9 – What Is It? So what exactly IS this thing? Is this rock actually alive and breathing?! Actually, yes! This “rock” actually is a living creature
called Pyura chilensis! It’s an interestingly bizarre sea creature
also known as the Living Rock! The Living Rock is a type of tunicate. Tunicates are sea creatures named after their
thick exteriors or ‘tunics’ made from tunicin. That’s exactly what makes them look like
a rock. It’s a hardy matrix of cellulose-like material
that helps them attach to a hard surface. Basically, they don’t move, and wherever
they attach, that’s where they’ll remain for the rest of their lives! These guys may look like rocks, but they’re
alive. The insides of this tunicate are lined with
a layer of skin AND a muscular band. Inside of these layers is the main body of
this animal. In general, tunicates, live attached to a
hard surface on the ocean floor, just like the living rock. They’re commonly known as sea squirts. 8 – Sea Squirts
And while we’re talking about sea squirts, you’re probably wondering what they are. Well, a sea squirt looks a lot like a plant,
but it’s definitely an animal. Sea squirts are more scientifically known
as tunicates or ascidians. Surprisingly, these animals are in the same
phylum we are. That’s the phylum Chordata, which includes
humans, whales, sharks, and fish. There are over 2,000 species of sea squirts,
and they’re found throughout the world. Some species are solitary, while some form
large colonies. Sea squirts attach to things such as piers,
docks, boats, rocks, and basically any hard surface where they have access to the resources
they need! So what exactly do they need? Well, definitely some seawater. Sea squirts have two siphons because they’re
filter feeders. They use one inhalant siphon to pull seawater
into their body to feed on algae and microorganisms. Then they have an exhalant siphon, which they
use to expel that same seawater out and whatever waste they don’t need. When someone picks up a sea squirt, sometimes
they’ll forcefully eject water from its siphon. And THAT’S how these creatures got its name. So if you pick one up from the water, you
may get a wet surprise! 7 – Location
So where are most of these guys found? These guys are often found in dense aggregations
off the coasts of Chile and Peru. Also known as Piure in Spanish, the Rock was
first described in 1782 by Juan Ignacio Molina. Off the Chilean coast, the living Rock is
actually heavily fished. It actually happens to be one of the main
food sources for other local species, such as the Chilean abalone. The number of Chilean abalone grew so much,
they’ve threatened to wipe out the Living Rock and severely restricted their growth
for more than two decades! It really doesn’t take much to fish the
Rock. Many locals use just a basic wetsuit and goggles
to get to them, mostly in rocky areas close to shore but occasionally farther out to sea. 6 – Local Delicacy
Apparently, locals are pretty big into eating the living Rock. It’s one of Chile’s oldest and most controversial
delicacies. Fishermen typically cut the Rock into slices
with a handsaw. Then they use their fingers to pull out the
siphons because it’s probably not tasty to eat? That’s what we’re guessing. And since you can either eat the living rock
raw or cooked, the options are kinda unlimited. Apparently these guys are pretty polarizing. One famous Chilean chef, Rodolfo Guzmán,
claims that half of Chile love the taste, and the other half hates it! Traditionally the living rock is served raw,
topped with freshly squeezed lemon. Another popular way is combining it raw with
chopped onion, cilantro, green onion, salt, oil, and lemon juice, and basically it’s
kinda like salsa. It also serves as an element for many dishes
when it’s chopped up and boiled. It’s also fried and eaten on bread! In the south of Chile, it’s common to find
dried and smoked piure links that are used in soups and stews hanging in food markets. Word has it, the living rock has a preeeeeetty
strong flavor. Its taste has been described as that of iodine
or something bitter and soapy. People have described its taste as oysters
and sea urchin mixed in one. And then allowed to ferment, to get a VERY
concentrated taste of the sea in one bite. Ugggggggh! Because of its high level of vanadium, and
the element’s toxicity, there are concerns about eating the creature but we’ll get
to that a bit later. 5 – Import Export
The living rock definitely doesn’t sound like something we’d eat, but we’d definitely
just give it a shot out of curiosity. But, chileans are not the only people who
enjoy the taste of these guys. The Living Rock – either raw or canned – is
shipped to many different countries around the globe. The biggest global consumers are Sweden and
Japan! Sweden represents 32.5% of all exports, and
Japan is second at 24.2%. The Living Rock is also known for its let’s
call it, lasting effects! Pretty much like oysters, and cheaper than
taking that little blue pill! Maybe Sweden and Japan are onto something? Again, as far as the taste goes, it’s again,
absolutely weird. Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre foods calls it one
of the most horrifying things he’d ever seen or eaten in his entire life! He described it as quote, “Frightening,
absolutely frightening“ and he also said that he’ll never forget the experience! You’ll definitely want to check out our
video on the most dangerous foods people actually eat! 4 – Independent Rocks
Like we said earlier, the Living Rock is often found in densely packed colonies either really
close to the shore or far out in the sea. This is believed to make reproducing much
easier for them, but if they somehow do end up on their own, they’ve figured out a pretty
genius way to bypass the whole problem altogether. Since they can’t move and they’re pretty
much stuck to whatever piece of real estate they choose, they had to find a way to reproduce. And indeed they have. They’re able to reproduce with themselves
if they need to! Well, how does that happen? Amazingly enough, they can release BOTH eggs
and sperm simultaneously! And if the sperm-egg collisions are successful,
they’ll produce tiny tadpole-like offspring that will eventually settle onto a rock to
grow into adults. Nature had to find a way to make things work
for them. So these guys are born with male parts but
grow female parts in adolescence. And that’s how nature figured that problem
out! In 2005, biologists from Chile wanted to find
out how these guys reproduced. First, the isolated individuals were placed
in plastic bottles, and were left alone for 90 days. Next, the researchers combined pairs either
from the same population, or from two different populations, to see how well they would breed
in comparison. After their observations, they gave their
self-breeding behavior the perfect name of quote “selfing”. The study also confirmed that if these guys
were given a choice between “selfing” or cross breeding with another living rock,
well, cross breeding it is! So selfing was born out of necessity. Apparently cross-fertilization is just a bit
quicker and more successful for them. If they do breed with another Living Rock,
they create more living rock babies that way. Scientists speculate that colonies of thousands
and thousands of Rocks can breed just out of a single Rock! This suggests that when stuck alone in the
ocean, selfing provides an opportunity for loner Rock individuals to still pass on their
genes and keep the species going strong. 3 – It’s not Blood
It’s worth noting, though, that the red thing you’re seeing actually ISN’T blood. The liquid on the inside is clear. The most interesting fact is that, for unknown
reasons, the living rock has extremely high concentrations of a rare chemical called vanadium. The red that you see when its opened up is
actually just the color of the tissue. Living rocks have a very minimal nervous system,
no central brain, and no actual visible blood. The concentration of vanadium in the living
Rock and other tunicates can be up to 10 million times that of surrounding seawater. In fact, sea squirts have been found to be
the only organisms in the animal kingdom to accumulate high levels of vanadium in their
plasma, and researchers aren’t sure what the function of this element has in these
animals. Because of the high levels of vanadium, there
are concerns about the safety of eating large amounts of living rock. Vanadium is a heavy metal and just like any
other element, too much of it does pose a health risk. Vanadium is generally used along with steel
to make stronger tools! The average diet provides trace amounts of
vanadium and high doses of vanadium may cause liver damage. However, no in-depth studies have ever been
done to determine the health effects. But one thing we do know is that locals have
been eating the living Rock for centuries on end without serious health effects! 2 – Vanadium
We might as well get a bit more in depth into Vanadium since we’re on the subject. It’s a medium-hard, steel-blue metal. Although it’s not that famous as a metal,
it’s actually quite valuable in the manufacturing industry because of its malleability, and
its corrosion-resistant qualities. Vanadium rarely exists as a free element in
nature. It’s found in around 65 different minerals. As we mentioned earlier, vanadium-steel alloys
are used to make extremely tough tools such as axles, armor plates, car gears, springs,
and cutting tools. Vanadium alloys are even used to make nuclear
reactors because of their low-neutron-absorbing properties! High doses of vanadium are toxic to us, but
scientists think we still need the element in very small amounts for normal bone growth. Vanadium can be found in trace amounts in
many types of food, such as mushrooms, black pepper, parsley, and dill weed. When we eat a balanced diet, we consume just
0.01 milligrams per day, and this is more than enough for our biological needs. So how are the guys in Peru and Chile eating
the Living Rock with that much vanadium in it?! 1 – Camouflaged
For most people, if they saw a living rock on the beach, they wouldn’t even think twice
wondering whether or not this crazy animal is edible. It certainly doesn’t even look edible, much
less alive, from its appearance on the outside. And when it’s opened up, its bright red interior
might make people think that it’s poisonous. Brightly colored animals are often poisonous
or venomous. These colors often act as a warning sign to
other animals in search of food. Watch this next video to find out about the
most dangerous foods people actually eat!


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