Is that a facehugger?! How the monster from Alien turned up in the Gulf of Mexico

Name: Bathynomus yucatanensis.

Yikes! What the hell is that? Can we do this properly, the Pass notes way?

Sorry. Age: Somewhere near the 160m year mark. From fossil records, that’s how long giant isopods are calculated to have been around.

Isopod? It’s a type of crustacean.

And bathynomus yucatanensis is a giant one of those? That’s what bathynomus means.

Yucatanensis suggests Mexico, right? Very good – this is a newly discovered species in the Gulf of Mexico.

Habitat: The benthic zone – the lowest ecological zone in a water body – although they were discovered between 600 and 800 metres down.

Appearance: A creamy yellowy colour; 26cm long (that’s about a foot for the Brexiters reading), 13cm wide. Fourteen legs, segmented body.

It looks like a mega-woodlouse. That’s because they’re related – they’re both isopods. The size is attributed to the phenomenon known as deep-sea gigantism, also responsible for giant squids. This one was first thought to be the already known Bathonymus giganeus species, but research just published in the Journal of Natural History has found it to be a new species. Now turn it over and check out the underside …

Aggghhhh! It’s a facehugger from Alien! Isn’t it? It’s scary down there in the deep. And sci-fi-y. Jabba the Hutt is not unlike a sea cucumber. The aliens in Spielberg’s adaptation of War of the Worlds are reminiscent of jellyfish. If you’re looking for scary other-worldly inspiration, look to the bottom of the sea. I’m just waiting until someone makes a movie about the pink see-through fantasia.

What’s one of them? Sounds kind of sexy … The pink see-though fantasia is a glowing globby thing with transparent skin, so its entire digestive system (including its anus) is all visible, working away. If that’s your thing …

Hmmm, maybe not. Anyway, back to this new facehugger monster; should I be cancelling my holiday to Cancún? Yeah, when you go on the snorkelling excursion it’s going to rip your mask off, lock on to your face and plant its embryo down your throat. You’re going to forget all about it … until it bursts out of your chest at the buffet breakfast!

Really? Probably not, to be honest. Although bathynomus are carnivorous, they mainly eat dead stuff on the seafloor. Also, you’re probably not going to be snorkelling in the benthic zone.

Do say: “So reassuring that new species are still being discovered. Did you know, we know more about the surface of Mars than the ocean floor?”

Don’t say:I’m not drawing any straws – I’m for killing that goddam thing right now.”


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