There are ordinary amphipods, known to be mostly tiny shrimp-like crustaceans that thrive in aquatic environments around the world, and now there are "supergiant" amphipods, which are 10 times larger and, frankly, quite freakish-looking
British scientists made the remarkable discovery by accident while participating in a joint expedition with New Zealand scientists to probe the depths of the Kermadec Trench, north of New Zealand.
Using a large metal trap outfitted with cameras, they'd hoped to haul up a species of deep-sea snailfish that had not been captured in more than 60 years. Instead they hauled up, from nearly 33,000 feet below, seven milky-white amphipods measuring to about 11 inches, or the size of small lobsters. (Ordinary amphipods barely exceed 1 inch.)
Dr. Alan Jamieson, from the University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab, said on the facility's website, "The moment the traps came on deck we were elated at the sight of the snailfish as we have been after these fish for years.
However, seconds later, I stopped and thought, 'What on earth is that?' It's a bit like finding a foot-long cockroach.
The mysterious find was not totally unprecedented. The term 'supergiant' was used by American scientists who hauled up unusually large amphipods off Hawaii in the 1980s.
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February 10, 2012