Saturday, March 2, 2013

Shouldn’t He Be Hungry by Now?

He hasn’t eaten since January 2, 2009, but he seems to be none the worse for the experience, although he seems a little lethargic. But for No. 1 and his fellow giant isopods, that’s pretty normal.

He is a giant isopod called No. 1 and lives at Japan’s Toba Aquarium. He and his kind are sometimes known as “scavengers of the deep” because they feed only on dead fish, whales, squids and other marine animals. Hie caretakers have tried to entice him to eat by offering him all sorts of tidbits, including squid tentacles. He has ignored all their efforts so far.

No. 1 is a member of the genus Bathynomus. The largest member of the genus, It is closely related to shrimp and crabs, and a land-based insect known as a pill bug. Some people in fact refer to No. 1 and his relatives as giant pill bugs. The resemblance between the marine giants and the garden-variety of pill bugs is obvious.

The giant isopod can grow to a length of over 16 inches, with a hard, segmented shell that allows the animal to roll itself into a protective ball when threatened. It has very complex compound eyes, typical of many insects and large antennae to help it navigate the sea floor.

Giant isopods are known to be able to survive long periods without eating, although generally captive specimens usually have to eat at least every eight weeks. This makes No. 1 a record- holder for his current fast.

These creatures are usually solitary animals and reproduce by laying eggs. The females carry the eggs in a pouch until the young crustaceans are ready to emerge as small, but nearly fully formed adults. They can be found in most of the world’s oceans. They seem to prefer deep water and are usually found in waters ranging in depth from 550 feet (170 m) to more than 7,000 feet (2,140 m).

If you’re interested in seeing photos of this sea-going pill bug, visit here:

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