Giant isopods eat the alligator: a video from the bottom of the ocean
These crustaceans are deep-sea scavengers.
12 APR 2019 18:50
Biologists from Louisiana state University studied the “giant woodlice” isopods of the genus of large isopods crustaceans.
Giant isopods (lat. Bathynomus) in large quantities are found in the cold deep waters of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Depending on the species (in total there are 15) Bathynomus have a body length of from 8 to 76 cm This important benthic scavengers: they feed on dead whales, fish and squid. They can also be active predators, attacking slow-moving prey such as sea cucumbers or sponges.
Giant isopods are among the oldest organisms on Earth, and American scientists decided to find out how they ate before the advent of whales. Biologists have placed the carcasses of three other ancient creatures, alligators, to three different sites to a depth of 2000 meters in the Gulf of Mexico. Process surprised even the experts.
In the first place fantastic was the speed with which living in the Gulf isopods found appealing meals: during the first 24 hours a huge number of scavengers found their way to the carcasses and stuck to them. Crustaceans easily make a hole in the tough skin of the alligator with the help of their strong jaws and proceeded to feast, needas to a state of complete immobility. Buried deep beneath the surface of the ocean, several thousand meters from a light source, they need to produce food and carbon where it is possible to. This means that when a whale or a big fish dies and sinks, its body becomes food oasis in the almost desert landscape.
The experiment was conducted in order to study the role reptiles like alligators could play in the carbon cycle and biodiversity on the ocean floor. Millions of years ago, when whales on Earth was not yet in sight, the carbon could be deposited at great depths just from the corpses of aquatic reptiles (plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and mesosaurs), so the alligator was the best candidate to model the situation occurring in ancient times. Through the experiment, the researchers found that if the dead reptile’s gonna sink to the ocean floor, their corpses will not disappear and will benefit (not just isopods). The researchers plan to return to the scene of the experiment after the corpse is eaten completely.