Scientists Found Something Completely Unexpected In Photos Of A Rare Goblin Shark
In April, shrimp fisherman Carl Moore accidentally caught an incredibly rare goblin shark off the Florida keys. Moore snapped photos of the 18-foot-long creature before releasing it back into the water.
Those images, shared by NOAA, immediately captured the attention of the media and scientists as they showed only the second goblin shark ever to be spotted in the Gulf of Mexico and the first to be captured since 2000.
But researchers studying the photos have now noticed something else exciting. Among the shrimp and other fish dumped on the boat deck are dozens of giant deep-sea isopods, huge insect-like creatures that are closely related to shrimps and crabs.
Andrew Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist who also runs the popular marine science website Southern Fried Science, told CNN that he has never seen "that many [giant isopods] in one place at the same time before."
The giant isopod can grow up to lengths of more than 16 inches. They survive by scavenging for food on the ocean floor, including the decomposing bodies of dead whales, fish, and squid, according to the website Sea and Sky.
Thaler believes that both the isopods and the shark were feeding on the carcass of a whale decaying at the bottom of the ocean. Giant isopods are "usually spread pretty thin and only occur in abundance around a food source," Thaler told The Houston Chronicle. The fishing trawl, he theorizes, passed over the spot of the dead whale.