January 19, 2021
Meet a giant 'Darth Vader' crustacean from the dark side of the sea

Meet a giant ‘Darth Vader’ crustacean from the dark side of the sea


Ventral and dorsal view of the female Bathynomus raksasa isopod.

National University of Singapore

If you spot a gigantic crustacean, you might as well nickname it after one of the most feared Star Wars villains in the galaxy — Darth Vader. A newly described species of isopod is one of the largest specimens scientists have recently spotted.

Officially named Bathynomus raksasa, the new isopod turned up in the Indian Ocean near Indonesia. This marks the first time the genus Bathynomus has been collected in Indonesian waters. The specimens were discovered at a depth of between 3,116 feet (950 meters) and 4,133 feet (1,260 meters) 

Whereas most deep-sea isopods are usually a little over 3/8 inches (10 millimeters) in length, this extra-large Bathynomus raksasa isopod measures about 13 inches (330 millimeters) in length. It’s the first new giant isopod species to be described in more than 10 years, according to a new study published in the journal ZooKeys.

Scientists from the National University of Singapore and the Indonesian Institute of Sciences published their findings on the new giant isopod species (both male and female specimens) that were originally collected off the southern coast of West Java in Indonesia during a joint deep-sea biodiversity expedition in 2018.

“During an expedition, there are some animals which you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find,” Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum posted on Instagram. “One of the animals that we hoped to find was a deep-sea cockroach affectionately known as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff on our expedition team could not contain their excitement when they finally saw one, holding it triumphantly in the air.”

While scientists estimate there are around 10,000 species of isopods, all share common characteristics such as compound eyes, antennae, four sets of jaws and a segmented body that has seven sections with legs attached to each section.

Previously, scientists have seen large isopods ripping apart and eating anything in their path, including a well-placed alligator corpse in a recent experiment.


Here’s the front view of Bathynomus raksasa, a new species of giant isopod. 

National University of Singapore

If that’s not horrific enough to imagine, there are also parasitic isopods (nicknamed tongue biters) that eat, and then replace, a fish’s tongue without it knowing. The isopods also control the fish’s brain like a zombie, to help spread more parasitic isopods from fish to fish during mating.

“The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans,” study co-author and researcher Helen Wong said in a statement. “There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region.”

The Bathynomus raksasa isopod was one of 12,000 specimens collected during the deep-sea expedition.

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