Creature Feature: Giant Marine Slater

Andrew Hosie's blog | Created 7 years ago

Western Australia’s Giant Marine Slater, Bathynomus pelor Bruce, 1986

In the pitch black depths off the northwest coast lurks the Western Australian Giant Marine Slater. A marine cousin to the slaters or woodlice you can find in your back garden, these giants roam the ocean floor in search of food. Thought to be principally scavengers, feeding on the carcasses of dead animals like fish and whales, these slaters are likely to eat whatever animals they can catch. As food sources in the deep sea can be rare and species like Bathynomus pelor have adapted to go for long periods without eating. When they come across a dead animal on the sea bed they will gorge themselves to the point where they struggle to walk.

Bathynomus pelor is found in northern Western Australia from Cervantes to the Kimberley in waters between 300 and 600 m. They may get caught in baited crab pots or picked up by trawlers where they may attack the catch. Despite reaching lengths of around 15 cm, Bathynomus pelor is not the largest of its kind. In the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea lives Bathynomus giganteus which is reported to reach lengths of 76 cm, which is easily the largest isopod and one of the larger crustaceans in the world. Video footage of this species captured by baited camera stations can be seen on YouTube.

A giant, white slater on a table viewed from the side
Bathynomus pelor - Giant Marine Slater
Photo by Andrew Hosie
Image copyright of WA Museum
A giant, white slater on a table viewed from the top
Bathynomus pelor - Giant Marine Slater
Photo by Andrew Hosie
Image copyright of WA Museum
A giant, white slater on a table viewed face on
Bathynomus pelor - Giant Marine Slater
Photo by Andrew Hosie
Image copyright of WA Museum