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People Can’t Believe How Much This Sea Creature in Indonesia Looks Like a Giant Cockroach

The newly-discovered species of crustacean can grow up to a foot long.
21 July 2020, 8:27am
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Another species of giant isopod. For illustrative purposes only. Photo: Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

This article originally appeared on VICE Indonesia.

Despite their size, cockroaches are at the top of many people’s list of fears. So what happens when you see one that’s a foot long? A group of researchers recently discovered a sea creature in Indonesia’s coast that looks exactly like that.

According to a study published on ZooKeys in July, scientists from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) and the National University of Singapore found a new species of giant isopod in 2018 that can grow up to a foot long. One male they found measured 36.3 centimetres, while a female was recorded at 29.8 centimetres long. Following photos the researchers shared on social media, many noted that the discovery looks less like your average crustacean and more like a giant roach.

The new species belongs to the Bathynomus genus (giant isopods) and is now referred to as Bathynomus raksasa, which means “giant” in Indonesian. They were found during the South Java Deep Sea Biodiversity Expedition (SJADES) led by Dwi Listyo Rahayu and Peter Ng in the Sunda Strait.

Indonesians can’t get over how much the creature looks like a giant roach.

“What’s scarier than a cockroach? A giant cockroach,” one said.

“Please stop retweeting about the giant cockroach. Just please,” another begged.

“Idfk what’s real anymore,” said a Twitter user in disbelief.

The Bathynomus raksasa is huge, even according to crustacean-standards. It is now one of the 20 biggest isopods ever recorded.

“Its size is indeed very large and occupies the second largest position of the genus Bathynomus,” LIPI Biology Research Center researcher Conni Margaretha Sidabalok told Mongabay.

But they’re not as scary as they look. According to the study, these creatures only feed on dead marine animals that have sunk to the sea floor. Though it is closely related to crabs and shrimps, Bathynomus have no carapace that protects its internal organs.

Apart from the two Bathynomus raksasa, the scientists also found four other specimens, but they're still too young to be identified.

“We have not been able to identify which species the young specimens belong to, since they have not fully developed. But they are definitely not Bathynomus raksasa,” said Conni, according to Indonesian news site Kompas.

Cahyo Rahmadi, the Acting Head of Zoology of LIPI’s Biology Research Center, hopes the new discovery can encourage more people to learn about the biodiversity of Indonesia’s waters, especially as taxonomists race against time to reduce the rate of extinction of marine life.

A 2017 report by Indonesia's Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries claims that the country has the second-highest biodiversity in the world, only below Brazil. Unfortunately, both the ministry and researchers are still unable to provide definitive data on Indonesia’s marine diversity as the deep ocean is vast and particularly difficult for humans to explore.