Photos of Freakish Shark Reveal Another Big Find

Isopods signal 'whalefall' at bottom of Gulf

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted May 7, 2014 1:28 AM CDT | Updated May 11, 2014 11:07 AM CDT

(Newser) – Researchers studying photos of a rare goblin shark hauled up in the Gulf of Mexico last month say they've spotted something just as exciting—and just as weird-looking—in the shrimpers' catch. Mixed in with the shrimp are unusually large numbers of giant isopods, a deep-sea creature that resembles a cat-sized woodlouse, reports the Houston Chronicle, which has a photo gallery of the catch. Scientists believe their presence, along with that of the goblin shark, indicates that the trawler passed over a "whalefall"—a decaying whale on the ocean floor, perhaps as much as a mile below the surface.

Entire ecosystems can spring up around the dead whales, living off the carcass for decades. "While I think (the) goblin shark is cool and all, look at all those freakin' giant isopods!" tweeted marine biologist Andrew Thaler, who plans to seek funding to send a submersible to the site. If his team makes it there, they may encounter the same goblin shark: The captain who caught it says he returned the strangest creature he's encountered in his 50 years of shrimping to the Gulf after taking photos. "Anything that's alive we try to put back in the ocean," he tells CNN. (More on the freakish shark here.)

Giant isopods are "usually spread pretty thin and only occur in abundance around a food source," Thaler says.   (Wikipedia/Borgx)
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