Goblin Shark Wasn't The Only Rare Sea Monster Netted By Florida Fisherman [VIDEO]

By Ben Wolford on May 8, 2014 4:13 PM EDT

This giant isopod, a gargantuan relative of shrimps and crabs, was caught on a deep-sea fishing expedition in 2006. (Photo: NOAA)
This giant isopod, a gargantuan relative of shrimps and crabs, was caught on a deep-sea fishing expedition in 2006. (Photo: NOAA)

While everyone was distracted by the terrifying photo of the goblin shark, captured last month near Key West, Florida, they missed something just as spine-tingling: a dozen "gigantic pill bugs" like the one above.

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The scare quotes are there because it's not really a pill bug (or roly poly, depending on where you're from). These giant isopods of the genus Bathynomus are more closely related to shrimp and crabs, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. As noted by the Houston Chronicle, a marine biologist examining the goblin shark photo spotted several isopods poking out of the pile of shrimp. You can see the photo here, or there's an isopod in the top center off the photo below.

There's a giant isopod at the top of the photo. That big guy in the middle? That's the goblin shark. (Photo: NOAA)
There's a giant isopod at the top of the photo. That big guy in the middle? That's the goblin shark. (Photo: NOAA/Carl Moore)

Andrew Thaler, of Southern Fried Science, told the Chronicle that there's probably a whale corpse somewhere in the depths. Dead whales eventually sink to the seafloor where their carcasses become decades-long feasting sites that attract the whole food chain. Carl Moore, the fisherman who brought up the shark, the isopods, and the mound of shrimp, was probably right on top of it when he drew up his net 10 miles off the coast of Key West.

Contrary to internet chatter, goblin sharks — though rare as bycatch — are not rare generally. The World Conservation Union does not consider them endangered, and they're found in most oceans of the world. (After snapping the photos, Moore released the goblin shark back into the Gulf of Mexico.) Giant isopods are not rare either. Thankfully, however, you'll never have to worry about one crawling onto your bed at night. They stick to the deep parts of the ocean.

If you aren't repusled enough by the pictures, here's a video of giant isopods (and eels and crabs) devouring a dead tuna. Don't watch if you're squeamish or if you prefer not to imagine what your seafood looks like before you eat it.

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