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'Supergiant' amphipod discovered in deep sea near New Zealand

'Supergiant' amphipod: An expedition from the University of Aberdeen has yielded rare specimens of a giant, pale crustacean living 4 miles beneath the ocean surface. 

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An elusive supergiant amphipod, recently plucked from the deep waters New Zealand's northeast coast by researchers from the University of Aberdeen.

Oceanlab, University of Aberdeen, UK.

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Scientists on an expedition to sample a deep-sea trench got a surprise when their traps brought back seven giant crustaceans glimpsed only a handful of times in human history.

The "supergiant" amphipods are more than 20 times larger than their typical crustacean relatives, which are generally less than a half-inch (1 centimeter) long, and thrive in lakes and oceans around the world. They are sometimes called the "insects of the sea."

"We pulled up the trap, and lying among the fish were these absolutely massive amphipods, and there was no inkling whatsoever that these things should be there," said Alan Jamieson, a lecturer at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, and leader of the expedition that turned up the fantastical creatures in November 2011.

The largest of the seven specimens was about 11 inches (28 cm) long.

"They actually don't feel real," Jamieson told OurAmazingPlanet. "They feel like plastic toys. They have a waxy texture to them." [See image of the supergiant crustacean.]

The pale, leggy creatures were found 4 miles (6 kilometers) down in the Kermadec Trench, off the northeast coast of New Zealand, one of the deepest trenches on Earth.

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