23 March 2015

Ocean Giants: Giant Isopod


The deep sea is full of wonders, and many creatures are waiting to be discovered. Technology makes it possible for scientists to go down the depths of our seas to study and identify these creatures. For example, the photo below was posted by a deep-sea technician in 2010 in the social site Reddit where he wrote, "I work for a Sub-sea Survey Company, recently this beast came up attached to one of our ROVs. It measures a wee bit over 2.5 feet head to tail, and we expect it latched onto the ROV at roughly 8,500 m depth. Unfortunately, the e-mail that these pictures were attached to came from a contractor, and the ship he was operating from is unknown, so I can't tell you what part of the earth this beast was living." Readers' responses ranged from curios to horrified [1]. 

Photo from NOAA/OER.

Later on, it was identified as Bathynomus giganteus, the giant isopod. Isopods are crustaceans (not bugs, even if they look like roaches). They dwell in the deep floors of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and can grow up to 50 cm in length. They often figure as bycatch in trawl fisheries [2]. Not only are they the largest isopod, they also have the largest egg (~10 mm) among pericaridans. Egg brooding is trait of the giant isopod, which may take several months, and at which time, females stop to feed. Instead, they burrow in the sediments and remain quiescent throughout the brooding period [3].

To know more about the giant isopod, visit SeaLifeBase.

If you have other information on them, which you wish to include in our information system, please e-mail us at sealifebase@fin.ph or join us as a collaborator.

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[1] Braun, D. 2010. Bathynomus giganteus: terrifying sea beast hauled up. Accessed on 13/02/2015 from http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/2010/03/31/bathynomus_giganteus_terrifying_sea_beast/
[2] McClain, C.R., et al. 2015. Sizing ocean giants: patterns of intraspecific size variation in marine megafauna. PeerJ 2:e715. Accessed from https://peerj.com/articles/715/
[3] Barradas-Ortiz, C., et al. 2003. Seasonal reproduction and feeding ecology of giant isopods Bathynomus giganteus from the continental slope of the Yucat√°n Peninsula. Deep-Sea Research I 50(4):495-513. Accessed from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0967063703000360


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