When I put a fishy face to the victims of ocean acidification, overfishing, and pollution, my brain usually goes off into Christian Riese Lassen territory. Orcas leap through the ocean at sunset. Coral reefs teem with diversity, each fish more lovely than the next. Sea turtles circling the globe? Why the heck not.
You know what never made it into the ocean diversity art on my seventh-grade geography folder? This guy:
Meet Bathynomus giganteus, a giant isopod who splits his time between scavenging the bottom of the ocean and waiting for you at the gates of hell. Lynne Elkins has an excellent essay on The Toast about monsters in the ocean and had this to say:
[Giant isopods] are not the worst isopods, which honor is reserved for the parasitic isopods. Those are the ones that attach themselves to the tongues of fish, causing the tongue to wither and fall off; they then take up permanent residence in their host fish’s mouth. Some live off whatever food the fish is eating, while others drink the fish’s own blood.
And that’s not all of the horror the ocean has to offer:
[T]he extreme deep-sea vampire squid (whose full latin name literally means “vampire squid of Hell”) is blood-red with “limpid, globular eyes,” can release a bioluminescent mucus into the water from its “writhing arms” which blinds opponents in a crazy light show that lasts up to 10 minutes, and can, you know, turn its own body inside out. …
[T]he spectacular misandrist anglerfish female [is] parasitized by tiny males whose bodies are absorbed onto her side, and who thereafter accesses their gonads as she sees fit. …
The deep-sea blobfish turns into the quite-famous gooey, creepy monster blob when surfaced. The sheepshead fish has horrible, human-like teeth in its horrible monster mouth.
Sayonara, sea. Don’t let the Great Pacific Garbage Patch hit you on the way out. What’s that you say? Discounting a critical part of our planet because of a few creepy apples is wrongheaded and silly? You’re right. But forgive me if I picture parasitic isopods instead of fun-lovin’ dolphins the next time we run a story on how bad we’re screwing up the ocean.