Researchers from Louisiana University of Marine Consortium (LUMCON) dropped a dead alligator 1.2 miles down in the Gulf of Mexico only to discover a bunch of sea bugs, each the size of a football ball, eating away the carcass of the animal. Within 24 hours, the bugs somehow found the corpse and munched so much meat they became unable to move.
Craig McClain from the LUMCON team said in the video they released showing the experiment that it was a surprising fact that the isopods found the alligator so quickly because he thought it would take some time for them to locate the food fall by getting chemical cues.
Our planet was knocked down by a wave of extinction around 65 million years ago, which, fortunately, left a few marine organisms alive. Scientists are trying to find out what kind of organisms were left to bring them to the public eye, and therefore they executed this experiment.
Football-Sized Pill Bugs devoured dead Alligator on the Bottom of the Gulf of Mexico
The giant bugs are called giant isopods (Bathynomus giganteus), and the researchers believe that some of their groups have ancient origins in the depths of the sea, even from 200 or 300 million years ago. These organisms are related to pill bugs apart from the fact that they are gigantic, and can actually eat once a few months or even years, researchers explained in the video.
They live hidden deep beneath the ocean’s surface and must forage for carbon when they can get it, meaning that whenever a giant creature like a whale or another kind of fish dies and sinks, its body turns into an oasis for these pink football-sized bugs.
However, before whales even exist, giant marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and plesiosaurs’ carcasses might have been the refuge for diverse local invertebrate organisms, researchers suggest. There’s also enough fossil research to imply this might have actually been true, and it is, most likely, still the case.
It is improbable that the isopods will be the only organisms to feed on the fallen carcasses: smaller creatures might try their luck along, scientists say. The researchers envision that when the team will return to the site, half of the alligator’s carcass will be gone.
Stacy Richardson is a seasoned journalist with 15 years experience.. She has conducted numerous research studies on media effects including the effects of bullying on adolescents, and “sexy media” effects on sexual behavior. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Stacy covers stories affecting local politics and economy. Contact Stacy here.