Mankind knows surprisingly little about the ocean depths. Often repeated proof of this is the fact that mankind has done a better job of mapping the surface of Mars from the bottom of the sea. The creatures we find lurking in the abyss of water often surprise even the most dedicated researchers with their unique traits and bizarre behavior.
A recent expedition to the Java coast has discovered a new species of isopod remarkable in size and resemblance to Darth Vader.
The ocean depths are home to many creatures that some consider unnatural.
Bathynomus raksasa pattern (left) next to a closely connected supergiant iris, B. giganteus (right)
Sidabalok CM, Wong HP-S, Ng PKL (ZooKeys 2020)
According to LiveScience, the genus Bathynomus is sometimes called “Darth Vader of the Seas” because the crabs are in the shape of a personal threatening helmet. Considered Bathynomus raksasa (“raksasa” which in Indonesian means “giant”), this cockroach-like creature can grow to over 30 cm (12 inches). It is one of several known species of giant oceanic isopods. Like other members of his order, he has compound eyes, seven body segments, two pairs of antennae, and four sets of jaws. The incredible size of this species is probably the result of deep-sea gigantism. This tends to make the creatures that inhabit the deeper parts of the ocean much larger than the closely related species that live in shallower waters. B. raxa seems to create a home between 950 and 1,260 meters (3,117 and 4,134 ft) below sea level. Perhaps appropriate for creating such a creepy look, these are the lower parts of what is commonly called the Twilight Zone, named for the lack of light available at such depths. It’s not the only giant isopod, far from it. Other species of oceanic isopods can reach up to 50 cm (20 inches) and look as if they have emerged from a nightmare. Yet these are unusual. In general, isopods are found in much more reasonable sizes. The discovery of this new species was published in ZooKeys. The rest of the samples from the trip are still being analyzed. The full report will be published soon.
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During the expedition there are some animals that you find unexpectedly, while there are others that you hope to find. One of the animals we hoped to find was a deep-sea cockroach known for miles as Darth Vader Isopod. The staff of our expedition team couldn’t contain their excitement when they finally spotted him, holding him triumphantly in the air! # SJADES2018
What benefit does this find for science? And is it as evil as it looks?
The discovery of a new species is always a reason to celebrate in zoology. The icing on the cake is that this discovery is an animal that inhabits the depths of the sea, one of the least explored areas that humans can reach.
Helen Wong of the National University of Singapore, who is the co-author of the species description, explained the importance of the discovery:
“The identification of this new species is an indication of how little we know about the oceans. There is certainly much more we could explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region.”
The visual resemblance of the animal to Darth Vader is the result of complex eyes and a curious head shape. However, given the place of its discovery, at the bottom of distant seas, it can be associated with all kinds of terribly evil Elders and Great Elders.