On 4 January at the Toba Aquarium in Mie Prefecture, Takaya Moritaki prepared a bowl of mackerel and encouraged himself saying “Maybe today will be the day.”

It was feeding time again for the giant isopods, and, for one of the crustaceans, it was the four-year anniversary of their refusal to eat anything at all.

You may have seen a picture of a giant isopod before but thought it was some kind of photoshop hoax.  He’s a clear shot of one.

At first it looks like a really big version of one of those bugs you used to tap with a ball-point pen and make curl-up into a ball (pill-bug, potato-bug, woodlouse, etc.). At least it should because they’re closely related aside from the lifestyle and obvious size differences.

The giant isopod lives far away from our ball-point pens, over 100 meters under the sea. They are scavengers who have adapted to going for long periods of time without food. However, when an ample food source is present, they can ravenous appetites sometimes even biting through underwater cables.

For Mr. Moritaki this is not the case. The Toba Aquarium houses two giant isopods. One of them which they affectionately named “No.1” has been on a hunger strike since 2 January, 2009.

With the media present, Mr. Moritaki tempted No.1 with the great taste of whole mackerel, placing the dead fish in front of the isopod’s face. No.1 began to poke at the fish with its front legs and rub its face into the fish.

But the aquarium staff was not fooled. They’ve seen this trick before. Here is footage of an attempted feeding from December of last year.

For some reason the 29 cm-long isopod pretends to eat, but quickly returns to its existence of swimming into a glass wall.

The aquarium has tried to fiddle the thermostat to get an optimum temperature for both feeding and breeding the giant isopods, but their stubborn behavior continues to frustrate the staff.

“I just want it to eat something somehow. It’s weakened in this state,” Mr. Moritaki said holding his head in his hands. Telling it that there are starving children in the world is rumored to be the next tactic.

Source: Yomiuri Online via Hachima Kiko (Japanese)
Image: NOAA – Wikipedia
Videos: TobasuiChannel, EnosuiMovie

Here is a video of normal, well-adjusted giant isopods eating. Watch how they clean their plates like good little pill-bugs.