Bizarre Deep-Sea Creature Devours Fish’s Head in Unsettling Video

by Caitlin Berard
(Photo by LindaZ via Getty Images)

Did you know that the deepest known point of the ocean is over 36,000 feet below the surface? To put that into perspective, the highest point on Earth is the peak of Mount Everest, which towers 29,000 feet above the ground. You could put Mount Everest in the Mariana Trench and the peak would still be in total darkness, 7,000 feet beneath the waves.

The mysteries of the deep are vast. We’ve explored virtually none of it and the minuscule percentage we have documented does nothing to assuage our overwhelming fear of the unknown. On the contrary, the deep-sea creatures brought to light by courageous researchers are nothing short of nightmare fuel.

Ghostly fish with unseeing eyes and gaping, jagged maws, giant sea spiders, and blobfish with deflated bodies and sagging, slimy lips are just a few of the monstrosities that roam the deepest parts of the sea. So a gargantuan insect-like creature feasting on the face of a fish in the black of the ocean’s depths? It’s really just par for the course.

Even the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) can’t help but admit that the giant isopod, a.k.a. giant face-eating deep sea insect, is a little horrifying. The video of the isopod was featured in their “31 Dives of Halloween” web series highlighting some of the deep sea’s creepiest creatures.

Deep Sea Researcher Gives Insight Into Giant Isopods

Though giant isopods are a relative of the pill bugs and sowbugs regularly found on land, they’re actually crustaceans. The species is so hearty that there are over 10,000 varieties, on both land and sea, and they date back more than 160 million years.

What makes the deep sea variety so much more unsettling than the tiny roly poly bugs we played with as children is unquestionably their size. While pill bugs are only about half an inch at the largest, giant isopods can grow to over a foot in length.

Researchers believe the deep sea critter’s enormous size is the result of evolution. “Giant isopods are an example of deep-sea gigantism, which is where deep-sea animals grow exceedingly large,” Stephanie Farrington, expedition leader and deep-sea biology specialist, told Newsweek.

“It is thought that this phenomenon increases efficiency,” Farrington continued. “And thus food scarcity in the deep ocean may have led to the evolution of gigantism. Colder water also has a correlation with larger body sizes. Typically, the temperature of the bottom of the ocean is close to freezing.”

That said, research on giant isopods remains limited, like all deep sea creatures. Because they live in the pitch darkness of the bathyal zone of the ocean, it’s nearly impossible to conduct extensive studies. Thanks to modern technology, however, that’s slowly beginning to change.

“Since they live at such great depths, they are very hard to study. Until modern history, the only way for us to access them was using trawls,” Farrington said. “The advent of modern ocean exploration and deep submergence vehicles allows us to observe giant isopods in the natural environment. This in situ observation had made it possible to more frequently observe their behavior.”