An image of a giant isopod from the Gulf of Mexico feeding on the carcass of an alligator.
Craig McClain and Clifton Nunnally researchers from Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium recently carried out an experiment one and quarter miles at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. In the experiment, the dropped several alligators to the bottom of the ocean where they recorded a feeding frenzy of gigantic isopods.
Isopods are relatives of the crustacean species such as roly-polies and pill plugs. These creatures are can stay immobile for long and can even appear dead or in hibernation. However, once the chunks of meat reached the bottom, they were active to ingest as much of the food as possible.
McClain and Nunnally noted that the creatures returned to their immobile state once they were satisfied. Once the isopods had their fill, they left the remainings of the alligators for other scavengers.
The observation made by the scientists was that the behavior portrayed by the creatures involved conservation of energy. The depth of the ocean hardly has enough food for such creatures and such windfalls rarely occur. Thus, the isopods eat as much as they can and preserve the energy to last them for months.
The same findings also show how decomposition of large sea animals occurs in the ocean. Since the conditions at such depths cannot support bacterial life, it is the duty of the “bottom feeders” to consume every organic material that drops to the ocean floor.