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New Giant Deep-Sea Isopod Discovered in the Gulf of Mexico

The renowned Deep-Sea Isopod genus Bathonymus have been found to contain a brand-new species, making them the most well-known aquatic crustaceans since Sebastian from “The Little Mermaid.” Bathonymus, a strange and savage group that lives in the benthic zone of the ocean—its lowest parts, which are seldom visited—consists of about 20 species. The crabs, shrimp, and lobsters, which are the more well-known decapod cousins of isopod crustaceans, are only distantly related to them.

The newest addition to this list is revealed by a team of Taiwanese, Japanese, and Australian academics who publish their results in the Journal of Natural History: A brand-new species called B. yucatanensis is around 26 cm long and 2,500% bigger than the typical wood louse. The terrestrial isopods known as wood lice, pillbugs, and roly polys, which feed on decomposing debris and are probably recognisable to anybody who has lifted a rock or dug in the yard, are members of the same group as deep water isopods.

Except for their remarkable size—the biggest of them grows to about 50 centimeters—they do really resemble one another fairly closely. Like wood louse, they may appear a little frightening, but they are entirely safe for people to encounter. Their peculiar characteristics and unique sizes have inspired many jokes and a variety of goods, including plush toys and phone covers, that celebrate their adorable quirkiness.

With the discovery of B. yucatanensis, there are now three recognised species of Bathonymus in the Gulf of Mexico, up from two previously—B. giganteus was identified in 1879 and B. maxeyorum in 2016. It was first believed to be an alteration of one of the biggest Deep-Sea Isopod, B. giganteus. But a closer look at the specimen, which was discovered in 2017 in the Gulf of Mexico off the Yucatán Peninsula at a depth of between 600 to 800 metres, showed a variety of unusual characteristics. The authors assert that B. yucatanensis is morphologically different from B. giganteus and B. maxeyorum.

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