Last week, workers at a Gulf of Mexico offshore oil rig received the shock of their lives, when one of their submarines emerged with this astonishingly scary looking creature - One that very few people have ever had a chance to encounter.
Having never seen something like this before, they posted a picture on the Internet to see if anyone could identify it. At first most people thought it was an April Fools' joke - However, the specimen was verified by experts and identified as an Isopod, which believe it or not, is a cousin of the Woodlouse or Roly Poly that we often seek out in our gardens.
This super-sized version is known as Bathynomus Giganteus and is quite common in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. However, they normally dwell 8,500 feet below the Ocean waters and rarely surface the way this one did.
Also, while they are much bigger than the 0.6 inch long Roly Polys, most are about 1.2 ft long - not 2.5ft (about twice the size of an average cat!) as this one was.
The giant Isopod has fourteen legs, the front four which act like hands and bring food to its four sets of jaws. It is a scavenger that feeds largely off dead whales, fish and shrimp. It also catches slow moving prey like sea cucumbers and sponges. Known to like the muddy ocean bottoms, Isopods are solitary creatures. Since food is scarce where they reside, the creatures have learned to adapt and can live for up to eight weeks without feeding - However, when they do find something edible they gorge themselves until they can barely move!
Though this specimen was abnormally large, scientists have noticed that crustaceans and invertebrates that dwell in the deeper waters, are always larger than their shallow-water cousins. They are not sure why, but believe that it may be due to either the cold water, higher pressure or even scarcity of food.
sources: dailymail.co.uk, mmn.com, wikipedia.org