Scientists Found Something Completely Unexpected In Photos Of A Rare Goblin Shark

Carl Moore/NOAAA large number of giant isopods (circled in yellow) were caught with a rare goblin shark by a fisherman in April.

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.

NOAAThe underside of a species of giant isopod captured in the Gulf of Mexico in October 2002.

But researchers studying the photos noticed something else that’s exciting. Among the shrimp and other fish dumped on the boat deck are dozens of giant deep-sea isopods — huge insect-like creatures closely related to shrimps and crabs.

Andrew Thaler, a deep-sea ecologist who runs the popular marine-science website Southern Fried Science, told CNN he’s never seen “that many [giant isopods] in one place at the same time before.”

“Imagine a pill bug the size of a house cat,” Thaler said.

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.

Goblin SharkCarl Moore/NOAAA rare goblin shark was released and swam away after it was caught by a shrimp fisherman off the Florida Keys.

That’s probably why the cluster of giant isopods and the goblin shark scooped were up together — a very bizarre occurrence.

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.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.