Despite their intriguing looks and substantial size, relatively little is known about giant isopods. We know where they live and how they fit into taxonomy (sitting together in the genus Bathynomus). But these unusual animals have yet to be the focus of extensive studies and are still somewhat of a mystery to science, despite being first discovered in 1879.
What is a giant isopod?
There are a lot of animals living on the seabed that seem strange to us on land. Giant isopods can live 500 metres or more below the ocean surface. But these 14-legged goliaths are relatives of the little woodlice you might find scuttling about in the garden – albeit distant cousins.
How big do they get?
The largest isopods are the species Bathynomus giganteus. The largest documented has come in at 50 centimeters (just short of 2 feet!), but they are usually around 30.5 cm (1 foot).
What do giant isopods eat?
Resources are scarce in the deep sea. Isopods rely on food falling from closer to the surface, as the seafloor is mostly barren. Occasionally big parcels of food reach the seabed, such as whale falls.