What the Hell Did Researchers Pull from the Depths of New Zealand's Seas?

No, this photo hasn't been 'shopped. You are looking at a specimen from a barely-known and even-more-rarely-seen group of "Supergiant" amphipods—crustaceans that grow twenty times the size of their relatives and can measure a foot or more in length.

Amphipods are often referred to as the "insects of the sea" and are found throughout the world's lakes and oceans, feeding primarily on carcasses and other organic debris. These tiny animals don't often grow more than 1cm in length, except the Supergiant viariety of course, which can exceed 11 inches head to tail. "They actually don't feel real," Alan Jamieson, University of Aberdeen lecturer and expedition leader, told OurAmazingPlanet of the November 2011 find. "They feel like plastic toys. They have a waxy texture to them."

The creature, along with other specimens, was captured in a deep-water trap located four miles down in the Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest on Earth. "We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there," said Jamieson.

These massive crustaceans were originally discovered in 1899 when two were caught in a trawler net in the Atlantic. They then "disappeared" into the watery depths for nearly a hundred years until scientists in Hawaii photographed them in the northern Pacific. The largest ever was regurgitated by a seagull in 1983 and—what was left of it, at least—measured 13 inches.

The research team plans to return to the site to potentially collect more of these amphipods as well as their original quarry, the deep-sea snailfish which has only been found once—ever—in 1952. [CS Monitor - Wikipedia]

Image - © Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK.