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New species of giant deep-sea isopod discovered in the Gulf of Mexico

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

A new deep-sea crustacean that bears a striking resemblance to the facehuggers from “Alien” has been identified in the Gulf of Mexico.

The bathynomus yucatanensis is a species of giant isopod, crustaceans that scavenge for food at the bottom of the ocean. Their segmented, fourteen-legged bodies resemble their much smaller relative, the woodlouse. The foot-long size of the giant isopods has been attributed to deep-sea gigantism, the same phenomenon that leads to giant squids at the bottom of our oceans.

A group of Taiwanese, Japanese, and Australian researchers set out to describe the new species of giant isopod and distinguish it from the bathynomus giganteus, the giant isopods found throughout the tropical western Atlantic waters. Their research was published in the Journal of Natural History on Tuesday.

The researchers collected specimens of the newly identified species off Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula. By comparing the massive crustaceans to others collected around Taiwan and Hong Kong, they were able to identify distinguishing characteristics, like its creamy yellow color and more slender body proportions.

DNA analysis also showed that the bathynomus yucatanensis is distinct from its close relatives. But because the different species are fairly similar, the scientists acknowledged that “there is a long history of misidentification of species in the genus.”

And there may be more huge isopods to come: the researchers noted that there may be more undiscovered species in the Atlantic Ocean.

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