You know those cute little wood bugs you see underneath your woodpile? The ones that roll themselves up like a cute little hedgehog when they’re threatened? Yeah, this isn’t one of those. The giant isopod is far creepier. There’s just something sort of weird about a creature that looks like it’s much bigger than it should be. Remember André the Giant? He was a good example of that. Anybody want a peanut?
The giant isopod is basically a wood bug, only it lives under the sea and is hell of a lot bigger – like 2 feet bigger. Growing up to 30 inches and weighing up to 3.7 pounds (seriously), the giant isopod strolls around under the sea doing nothing but looking for stuff to eat. And just like a pillbug, they can curl up into a ball when threatened, using their tough outer shell as a shield. It’s just that when they curl up, they’re the size of a soccer ball, or maybe an armadillo with gills. I don’t really know how big an armadillo is, because the only time I’ve seen an armadillo is in Donkey Kong, when they’re vicious killers bent on Donkey’s destruction.
While giant isopods are usually scavengers, because of where they live, they’ll settle for anything. They hang out pretty deep: somewhere between 500 and 8000 feet, if not deeper. If you’re a sea cucumber, you better watch your back (or top, or whatever sea cucumbers have). Giant isopods go after sponges, nematodes, and even slower moving live fish, if they can get them. Since they live in the deep ocean, they really have to make do with whatever they can get, like a starving man in a gigantic dumpster. Only unlike the starving man, in one of evolution’s smartest moves, giant isopods can go as long as FIVE YEARS without eating. But when food is around, watch out. They’ll eat until they literally can’t move, then just sit around digesting and being gigantic until they’ve digested enough to move again.
Because potential meals can be so few and far between, these guys don’t really do all that much. They can slow down their metabolism to survive, effectively cat-napping for most of their life, sort of like me, or a cat.
Watch this video to be simultaneously soothed by the melodic tinkle of David Attenborough’s voice and horrified by the methodic clicking of scavenging deep sea jaws.