In the deepest depths of the ocean, there lives a mysterious creature that looks like an enormous woodlouse. This is Bathynomus giganteus, the largest isopod in the world. Known colloquially as the giant isopod, these monstrous arthropods make their home in one of the most isolated and desolate environments on Earth. They inhabit every corner of the globe, always scuttling across the seafloor and waiting for their next meal. Some people might think they almost look cute, but don't be fooled. Bathynomus giganteus is terrifying.
These freaky isopods may look like their roly poly cousins, but they are much more than just big woodlice. They are excellent scavengers, ferocious predators, and spectacular survivors. They have to be, if they want to survive the harsh reality of deep sea living. While they may make your skin crawl, these amazing and sometimes frightening facts will leave you with a newfound resepct for these giant ocean isopods.
These massive arthropods can grow to stunning lengths. Most of these guys measure somewhere between seven inches and 14 inches long, but some reports say certain specimens measured out to be 2.5 feet from head to tail. To give a sense of scale, that means some giant isopods can grow to be even larger than most lobsters.
The giant isopod is the definition of a bottom dweller. They spend the majority of their lives on the sandy sediment of the ocean floors. They are capable of withstanding a ridiculous amount of pressure and have been found as deep as 7,020 feet below sea level. Their tough exoskeletons and low-energy lifestyle make it possible for these isopods to survive a brutal environment.
There are a lot of misconceptions about these deep-sea dwellers and how exactly they are able to survive on the ocean floor. They are strict carnivores, but food can be hard to find under thousands of feet of water. While it is true that they are scavengers and can survive on corpses that sink to the sea floor, they are also opportunistic hunters who will leap at an chance to snag a meal. They survive on a diet consisting of fish, other arthropods, squid, sponges, and the occasional rotting whale carcass.
Giant isopods are burrowers, and they love to sleep. So much so, they're constantly living in a state of semi-hibernation, which means they reduce their breathing and energy during times food is scarce. They can shut their body down to preserve energy and come out of hibernation when they feel its time to start scavenging again for food.