Deep Sea Isopod
Name: Deep Sea Isopod
Scientific name: Bathynomus giganteus
Range:   Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Gulf of Mexico, and the South Western Atlantic off Brazil. 
Habitat: Sea bottom (about 2000 feet) and also some have colonized freshwater habitats 
Status: Not Threatened
Diet in the wild: fish, sponges, small crustaceans, nematode worms, protozoans.
Diet in the zoo: Fish Food and Dried Shrimp
Location in the zoo: James R Record Aquarium

    Physical Description:

  • Body is divided into three distinct regions: head, thorax, and abdomen
  • Very Large set of compound eyes
  • Two pairs of antannae
  • Four sets of jaws
  • Oblong body shape
  • Distinct calcified segments
  • One pair of appendages to each segment
  • Grows up to 18 inches
General information: 
  • Live on the ocean floor below 1200 feet
  • Mainly found in the West Atlantic Ocean
  • Related to the pillbug, sowbug, lobster, crab, and shrimp
  • Food scavengers
  • Grow to 18" long and weigh up to 3 pounds
  • Primary predators are tiger sharks
  • Live in area that have little to no light
  • Water temperature is extremely cold
  • Food is scarce in habitat and many adapt to feast or famine
  • Isopod means similar footed.  (iso-similar, pod-foot)
  • Have the ability to catch large prey

              Feeding and Development:
    The Isopods feeding habits are extremely diverse.  Some groups are parasitic and some travel in large groups at night.  They prey on diseased or injured fish and also attack fish that have been caught in commercial nets.  They develop embryos in a direct matter within the female brood pouch and emerge as juveniles.  Isopods are egg laying, but have no larval stages.  The young are brooded in the female pouch.  Some females can carry about 20-30 eggs.

    There are currently two Deep Sea Isopods the Fort Worth Zoo.

    They are kept at an ice cold temperature and the fish tank is incredibly dark
    as if to resemble life at the depths of the ocean. 

    Wild deep sea isopods are sometimes accidental passengers on remote operated vehicles in undersea explorations. This animal was picked up from an ROV operating at a depth of 8500 feet off the western coast of Australia (Thanks to Trevor McCarthy for these very interesting photos.)

    ROV Hitchhiker

    ROV Hitchhiker
    Personal Observations: 

    The isopods don't have much to do.  They do not swim around like others in fish tanks.  Most often they look as if to be sleeping.  Oh, what a life!

    Source Materials and Related Links:

    Hickman, Clevand P, Jr., and Todd Zimmerman.  A Field Guide to Crustaceans of Galapagos.  Sugar Spring Press, 2000.  (Very nice for photos!)

    The Smithsonian's World Isopod List:ng of isopod species and descriptions:


    St Petersburg Times story on Isopods at the Florida Aquarium:

    University of Arizona Tree of Life:  Isopods

    Page author: {short description of image}Chelsy Plott 

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