I’d never heard of giant isopods until the day my friend Andrew sent out this photo on Twitter:
They’re pretty horrifying at first glance; they look like severed lobster tails that gained sentience and are plotting vengeance for some obscure, Family Guy-esque petty slight. Or like aliens. At any rate, when Andrew tweeted the picture, the general consensus among my Twitter friends was that giant isopods were freaky and gross. I believe the conversation went something like this:
Me: Ew! I hope I never encounter one of those in real life!
Andrew: You couldn’t pay me to live in the same state!
Every other person who saw the photo: Gah! Ewwwww! Ick! Nooooooo! Keep it away! It’ll eat your babies!
Despite my initial disgust at them, I had to find out what was under those severed lobster tails. Do they have faces? Legs? A second, smaller mouth like in Alien?
So I did a search for “weird crustaceans” or something, and I found this photo, which answered my question about the whether the little buggers had faces:
and this photo, which shows what’s under the lobster tail.
So no second mouth, just a squishy-looking belly surrounded by tens of legs.
Once I’d discovered the name of my new little friend, a Wikipedia search told me that the giant isopod is basically a giant roly poly, and the reason its name contains the word “giant” is because it is the largest creature of its species, not because it’s bigger than a house or anything. It is, however, bigger than a kitten:
Giant isopods, or Bathynomus giganteus, to use the scientific name, live on the bottom of the deepest parts of the ocean, and they feed by gorging themselves on the dead, decaying carcasses of other sea creatures. According to this article, giant isopods are considered a delicacy in Taiwan, but I don’t think I could eat one.
I can’t help but notice the giant isopod bears some resemblance to my 2007 Honda Civic:
Their helmet-shaped bodies and angled eyes also remind me of storm trooper helmets:
Giant isopods enjoy a certain level of popularity on the internet, and the best source of information on them is the Deep Sea News, which loves my little helmet-shaped buddies. There’s an article called “Isopocalypse 2010″ and damn how I wish I’d coined that phrase! Should you wish for a more extensive array of isopod-related media, there is even a CD devoted to Bathynomus giganteus that you can listen to here:
Eventually I came to the conclusion that the giant isopod is kind of cute. Not in a cuddly way, but in a sort of goofy way. I mean, I can even imagine it as a pet.
As you can see, the giant isopod is a fascinating creature that inspires bored people all over the Internet. I will leave you with some *examples of Bathynomus giganteus as muse:
*I did not create any of these graphics; they were all found by doing a Google Image search for giant isopod.