News Column

Bathynomus Giganteus: A Deep-Sea Woodlouse the Size of Your Arm? (Photo)

April 5, 2010

Rob Kuznia --

A bug the size of your hand is bad enough, but the length of your arm?

Sounds like something out of science fiction -- except it really exists. Maybe.

Last week, near April Fools' Day, a deep-sea research company brought an underwater vehicle to the surface, only to discover a two-and-a-half-foot-long hitchhiker attached.

(Click here to see a photo.)

The visitor, according to the scientists, was a gigantic isopod known as Bathynomus giganteus. The crustacean lives about a mile and a half under the Atlantic and Pacific waters, and feeds on dead whales fish and squid.

Strangely enough, as an isopod, the creature is a member of the same species as a few familiar land bugs that are way, way smaller. These include woodlice, which tend to hang out in damp places such as under rocks and logs and -- notably -- tend to grow to no more than an inch in length.

But is the photo of the arm-sized crustacean that made the rounds on the Internet real?

Tough to say for sure. For starters, the posting went viral near April Fools' Day.

Also, it was posted on the social news Web site Reddit without an explanation until a person describing himself as a technician left a post. And that post seemed to lead to more questions than answers.

"I work for a Sub-sea Survey Company, recently this beast came up attached to one of our ROVs (remotely operated underwater vehicles). It measures a wee bit over 2.5 feet head to tail, and we expect it latched onto the ROV at roughly 8,500 feet depth. Unfortunately, the e-mail that these pictures were attached to came from a contractor, and the ship he was operating from (and therefore location) is unknown, so I can't tell you what part of the Earth this beast was living."

Source: (c) 2010. All rights reserved

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