It feels a bit like deja vu to be back on board the NBP after three years. I both remember which specific doors are notoriously hard to close and have also completely forgotten what the entire 4th level looks like. Regardless, it’s been amazing to see familiar faces again and I am beyond excited to be back!
For my first blog post, I wanted to share with you all one of my favorite animals I came across during the last trip and am looking forward to seeing again. They are a group of giant Antarctic isopods called Glyptonotus antarcticus, aka. the cockroaches of the sea. But don’t let the name fool you, they are much more adorable and less terrifying than roaches. And this is from someone who has a horrible phobia of roaches after growing up in Florida.
Despite being called “giant” these beautiful critters only get up to 9cm in length as opposed to the Giant Isopod which can get up to 40cm long. However, just like the Giant Isopod and other pill bugs, G. antarcticus will roll into a ball to protect itself from predators. And if that doesn’t work, they can use their four pairs of sharp jaws!
G. antarcticus are opportunistic scavengers meaning they do not discriminate in terms of what they have for meals no matter if it’s been freshly dead or not. They feed mostly on carrion and their slow metabolisms help to get them through long stretches of time where food is scarce.
My favorite thing about the Giant Antarctic Isopod is that they can swim upside down! While scientists are not sure why they’ve evolved to do that, I like to believe it is just for fun. Even isopods need to keep themselves entertained 500+ meters below the surface of the Southern Ocean.
As I am writing this, we are currently heading Northeast off the coast of South Island, NZ to avoid a nasty storm before we try to head back south to our first station. The rocking of the boat has unfortunately already taken out a few of the scientists on board who are slowly but surely recuperating and testing out their sea legs. It’s been good to see more and more faces during each consecutive meal time who were previously missing due to seasickness. But once we get to our first station and the science we’ve all been waiting for really begins, all of this will be worth it to see some of the most fascinating critters the Southern Ocean has to offer…especially my bois (a.k.a G. antarcticus)!