Friday, May 7, 2010

Bathynomus giganteus

Bathynomus giganteus, the giant isopod, is quickly becoming one of my favorite arthropods. We have a few molts (the exoskeleton left behind when an arthropod sheds) at the aquarium and I love taking them out to tell people about the crazy creatures that live deep under the waves.

Many of us are familiar with isopods that we find in our yards: pill bugs or rolly-pollies as they are colloquially known are one of the only crustaceans to completely leave an aquatic habitat. There are terrestrial crabs but all of them have a marine larval phase. To my knowledge there are no other crustaceans that can live so far inland. But the pill bug's cousin, Bathynomus is truly giant by comparison and not long ago I was shown this great video illustrating the creature's size and eating habits: it is a truly important part of the sea-bottom ecosystem as it feeds on the decaying remains of large animals. Enjoy!

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