February 3, 2012 by staff
Supergiant Amphipod, An elusive supergiant amphipod, recently plucked from the deep waters New Zealand’s northeast coast by researchers from the University of Aberdeen.
The “supergiant” amphipods are more than 20 times larger than their typical crustacean relatives, which are generally less than a half-inch (1 centimeter) long, and thrive in lakes and oceans around the world. They are sometimes called the “insects of the sea.”
“We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there,” said Alan Jamieson, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and leader of the expedition that turned up the fantastical creatures in November 2011.
The largest of the seven specimens was about 11 inches (28 cm) long.
“They actually don’t feel real,” Jamieson told OurAmazingPlanet. “They feel like plastic toys. They have a waxy texture to them.” [See image of the supergiant crustacean.]
The pale, leggy creatures were found 4 miles (6 kilometers) down in the Kermadec Trench, off the northeast coast of New Zealand, one of the deepest trenches on Earth.
In addition to the animals captured in the trap, a seafloor camera more than a mile (2 km) away spied at least nine supergiant amphipods. It’s not clear why so many of the typically elusive creatures were in the area. A week later, when the expedition returned to the same spot, there was no sign of the supergiant amphipods, which was “very, very strange,” Jamieson said.
It appears the Aberdeen expedition has retrieved the largest complete specimen ever collected. (In 1983, an albatross regurgitated a supergiant amphipod, that, not surprisingly, was in poor shape. Researchers estimated at the time that, when alive, the creature would have been 13 inches (34 cm) long.)
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