By Rob Quinn
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.
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