Swim deep for the King of the Amphipods

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Nathan Hill on the discovery of a supergiant amphipod - check this monster out on video!

Most of us will have had a brush with an amphipod at some point. Typically, marine keepers will be aware of their curved-body antics, and know them by the name of Gammarus. We use Gammarus to feed our fish, quite frequently.

Gammarus are those odd, shrimpy looking curs that seem to spend all their time on their sides, doubled up as through they’ve taken a punch to the belly. Some people call them shrimp, but they’d be wrong. Amphipods are a taxonomic break away from the shrimp collective, despite their many shared features.

The amphipods that we’ve seen up until now are tiny. At best, if you get about the collections of those who study them, you might have seen a whopper at maybe 10cm/4" or so. If not, then you’ll have been lucky to see anything over 2 or 3cm.

But if you’re Alan Jamieson, of the University of Aberdeen, then you’ll have had a run in with a supergiant amphipod, a gargantuan scud bigger than a Discus, measuring 34cm/13.5" from top to tail.

But before you have nightmare images of being dragged about in the ocean as you go for a relaxing swim, pulled down by angry Gammarus relatives keen on payback for their kin, I have to add that these brutes are found only in deeper waters, in this case 7,000m deep of water. Off of New Zealand.

The Scottish team from Aberdeen, along with New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research managed to catch seven of these giants in a trap made of sapphire glass and metal, to withstand the intense pressures at those depths. With a camera built into it, they managed to bring a 28cm/11.25" beastie back to the surface, while the 34cm/13.5" ‘daddy’ of the bunch was witnessed only remotely.

For years, the common wisdom was that the ocean’s trenches would be barren, devoid of life, being too cold and with too intense a pressure for organisms to flourish. Recent research exploring these regions continues to throw up prizes again and again, showing how little we really know of this very genuine final frontier.

Commenting on the find, Alan Jamieson said: "It’s a bit like finding a foot long cockroach."

Whatever it was like, the amphipod is an amazing sight to behold. See for yourself on the video below:

 

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