Supriya Ghosh (Editor)

Pyura chilensis

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Scientific name
Pyura chilensis

Higher classification


On a table with a white clams along with a Pyura chilensis is a tunicate that somewhat resembles a mass of organs inside a rock; it has a pink-to-orange flesh on a shell.

Pyura, Austromegabalanus psittacus, Concholepas concholepas

Pyura chilensis

Pyura chilensis, called piure in Spanish, is a tunicate of the family Pyuridae. It was described in 1782 by Juan Ignacio Molina.


On a brown basket is a Pyura chilensis is a tunicate that somewhat resembles a gray rock group together, with multiple orange flesh.

Pyura chilensis strange sea creature looks like living rock but inside a delicacy in chile


Pyura chilensis is a tunicate that somewhat resembles a mass of organs inside a rock. It is often found in dense aggregations in the intertidal and subtidal coast of Chile and Peru. It is a filter feeder that eats by sucking in seawater and filtering out microorganisms.

On a wet ground with sands is a Pyura chilensis, a tunicate that somewhat resembles a gray rock covered in sand cut in half, with orange flesh at the bottom right is a measuring tool from 1cm to 5.

P. chilensis has some basic characteristics common to chordates, such as the notochord and a perforated pharynx. It is born male, becomes hermaphroditic at puberty, and reproduces by tossing clouds of sperm and eggs into the surrounding water. If it is alone, it will procreate by self-fertilization.

At a bay with a two level surface of concrete, a man is smiling standing, holding a Pyura chilensis, he has black hair wearing a black shirt with gray sleeves, and a denim pants, at the right bottom is a flesh of Pyura chilensis in a blue container and broken shells.

Its blood is clear and can contain high concentrations of vanadium, which may be ten million times that found in surrounding seawater; although the source and function of this element's concentrations are unknown.


On top of a brown table, there is a white plate of cooked Pyura chilensis and greens, along with a plate of red sauce and a plate of lemon at the top, a glass of water and a silver fork at the right.

The earliest mention of the "P. chilensis" was in 1782 by Juan Ignacio Molina in his book "Saggio Sulla Storia Naturale del Chili." Molina, a Chilean abbot who was shunned from Chile along with the rest of the Jesuit missionaries, wrote this book to describe the life lived by the Chileans in the Chiloe Archipelago. He briefly describes the natives for their fondness of fishing and that the Piure was another form of sustenance for the people.


On the left, a wet ground with Pyura chilensis, a tunicate that somewhat resembles a gray  group of rock with multiple orange flesh, cut in front showing its orange flesh. At the top right, a hand holding a Pyura chilensis, cracking its body to show its orange flesh. At the bottom right, On a wet ground with sands is a Pyura chilensis, a tunicate that somewhat resembles a gray rock covered in sand cut in half, with orange flesh.

On the Chilean coast, banks of P. chilensis are heavily fished. The animal is also one of the main food sources for other local aquatic species such as the Chilean abalone (Concholepas concholepas), whose proliferation has threatened P. chilensis and severely restricted its growth for more than two decades.

Many locals don wet suits and goggles to gather the delicacy, mostly in rocky areas close to shore, but occasionally farther out to sea.

Fishermen typically cut P. chilensis into slices with a handsaw, then use their fingers to pull out the siphons (which they refer to as tetas, or "udders") from the carapace, which is discarded. The flesh is usually sold in strips, but may be canned. It is exported to numerous countries, including, as of 2007, Sweden (32.5% of exports) and Japan (24.2%).


The meat, which has a strong flavor, can be eaten raw or cooked. Its taste has been described as like that of iodine or "something like a sea urchin though less delicate in flavor" and a "slightly bitter, soapy taste". It is usually cut into small pieces, and flavored with chopped onion, cilantro, and lemon. Minced and boiled, it serves as an element of many dishes, particularly arroz con piure picado, or "rice with minced piure". It can also be fried and eaten on bread. A similar edible tunicate in the Mediterranean is Microcosmus sabatieri, also called a sea violet or sea fig.

There are concerns about the safety of eating P. chilensis, given its high concentration of vanadium, with up to 1.9 mg/kg found in dry blood plasma. Vanadium is a heavy metal, considered toxic at any more than incidental levels. The average diet provides trace amounts of vanadium; typically 6–18 micrograms (µg). According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vanadium can cause liver damage in high doses of 1.8 mg or more daily. No in-depth studies have been done to determine the amount of vanadium contained within the blood or tissue of P. chilensis, nor in typical dishes containing its flesh.


Pyura chilensis Wikipedia