Giant underwater isopod on 4-year hunger strike, frustrating Japanese aquarium

Giant underwater isopod on 4-year hunger strike, frustrating Japanese aquarium

By Ida Torres / February 8, 2013 / Japan Daily Press
Takaya Moritaki is tasked with feeding the giant isopods at the Toba Aquarium in Mie Prefecture. He prepares bowls of mackerel for the crustaceans and, for one of them, it was the fourth year anniversary of its refusal to eat anything at all.

If you haven’t seen a giant isopod before – or maybe have seen a picture and disregarded it as a hoax – it looks like a really big version of a pill-bug, or a potato-bug, or a woodlouse. The resemblance is very keen because they’re closely related aside from the lifestyle and obvious size differences. The giant isopod lives 100 meters under the sea. They are shrewd scavengers who have adapted to going for long periods of time without food. However, when food is present, they can have ravenous appetites, sometimes even biting and cutting through underwater cables.

For Mr. Moritaki’s isopods though, this has not been the case. The Toba Aquarium has two giant isopods, one of them affectionately named “No.1”, which has been on a hunger strike since 2 January, 2009. Mr. Moritaki has tempted No.1 with whole mackerel in front of the media, placing the dead fish in front of the isopod’s face. At first, No.1 began to poke at the fish with its front legs and rub its face into the fish. But the aquarium staff was not fooled. They’ve seen this trick before.

For some unknown reason the 29 cm-long isopod pretends to eat, but quickly returns to ignoring the food. The aquarium has tried to recreate the optimum temperature for both feeding and breeding the giant isopods, but their behavior continues to frustrate the staff. “I just want it to eat something somehow. It’s weakened in this state,” Mr. Moritaki said holding his head in his hands.

[ via Rocket News ]

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