Monday, 11 June 2012
Very big woodlice
This startling creature is a "tatui". If it looks like a woodlouse, well it is a sort of cousin, but much, much, bigger! In fact Bathynomus giganticus, the largest species of tatui, can reach up to 76 centimetres long and weigh up to 1.7 kilograms! They can, slightly bizarrely, curl up into a ball just like their miniature cousins.
Tatuis live in the sea, and apparently, they are reasonably common along the Brazilian coast, but at depths of over 350m. Sometimes though they seem to appear much closer inland, and then they do get reported in local newspapers, usually when someone's toes have been nipped! They have quite a strong bite, eating sea urchins and other slow creatures on the sea floor, as well as scavenging whatever carcases they can find. Surprisingly, despite being heavily armoured, they themselves sometimes end up as meals for sharks.
An interesting video describing the (often disgusting) habits of marine isopods, including the tatui, can be found here....