13-inch long 'Darth Vader' crustacean found in Indonesia

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Even Anakin Skywalker might be a little scared by this one.

Researchers have found a new "supergiant" species of an isopod known as Bathynomus raksasa in the waters off Indonesia for the first time, measuring more than one foot in length.

B. raksasa, which has also been known as the "Darth Vader of the seas," is an isopod, a type of crustacean that can live on land or in the sea. It has segmented exoskeletons, compound eyes, two pairs of antennae and four sets of jaws, according to a description by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Anterior view of Bathynomus raksasa, a new species of giant isopod (Credit: SJADES 2018)

The discovery was mentioned in the scientific journal ZooKeys.

Most isopods are less than an inch in length, but B. raksasa is significantly larger than that, at 13 inches. This is not uncommon, considering the male and female specimens were found between 3,116 and 4,133 feet (950 and 1,260 meters) below the ocean surface.

"These giant isopods exhibit what is known as deep-sea gigantism, in which some animals found in the deep sea tend to be much larger than their relatives in shallow waters," a statement discussing the finding says.

Ventral and dorsal view of the female Bathynomus raksasa (Credit: SJADES 2018)

It also has an oddly shaped head shield and abdominal segments and the "large number (11–13) of spines on the pleotelson" which make B. raksasa a new species, the researchers wrote in the study's abstract.

Only 16 B. raksasa specimens have been previously discovered. However, seven of them are considered "supergiants," at more than 12 inches in length, the researchers added.

"The identification of this new species is an indication of just how little we know about the oceans," study co-author Helen Wong said in the statement. "There is certainly more for us to explore in terms of biodiversity in the deep sea of our region."

Not much is known about B. raksasa and other giant isopods. However, in 2019, LiveScience reported that giant sea bugs were spotted on video ripping apart an alligator corpse after a separate group of researchers dropped it into the Gulf of Mexico to see how they feed.

B. raksasa is not the only creature to have lived that resembles the Sith Lord. In December 2017, researchers found a 245-million-year-old fossil of a horseshoe crab that resembled Vader.


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