Everyone knew the position of Giant Isopod Poop Cleaner at the Toba Aquarium was awarded through nepotism. There was no work to be done and so no way to fail by not doing it, and for years the fortunate employee, unsoiled by ambition, had remained happily at home watching old sitcoms and collecting paychecks, until May 26th of this year, when a giant isopod poop was found languishing in the giant isopod tank. It was the first crustacean crap to appear in the tank in over two years.

The giant isopod is a sea creature resembling, and related to, the little land crustaceans known variously as pill bugs, sow bugs, or roly-polies, only the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. There are five of them in the Toba Aquarium and they’re no trouble at all. Whatever their needs are, they are not many. The first giant isopod they hosted did perish after not eating for five years, but nobody knows why. Could have been foot fungus, or malaise.

Remarkably, the isopod poop that materialized in May contained fish scales of a species that had never been on the aquarium menu. So it was assumed it was from something the creature had eaten before being captured, over seven years earlier. That’s a long time to be working on a turd.

That does not mean the giant isopod suffers from irregularity. If he dumps another lump in 2028, he’ll be right on the money.

So we don’t really know what motivated the movement this time, although it should be noted that streams of visitors to the aquarium had been staring at the animals through the glass for years and years and the isopod pinched a loaf only when the pandemic shut everything down.

Anyway, although the giant isopod cannot be descibed as peckish, it does have its moments. A now-famous video shows a giant isopod eating the face off a dogfish shark. Or purports to: what with all the thrashing and turbulence, I can’t even make out the isopod, and would have assumed the unfortunate shark was just having an epizootic.


But in any case the isopods clearly feel no urgency about eliminating digested shark face. They’re pokey about it. Seems to me you don’t get to be a really giant giant isopod by shooting everything you eat out the back end. You need to deliberate on it.

The Toba Aquarium isopod poop cleaner probably got bumped back down to the mailroom, or up to Vice President, but he could have been redeemed if it had taken a little longer to discover the poop. Turns out that many isopod species eat their own poop. Maybe, just maybe, the isopods are dropping a dookie a lot more often than anyone thinks, but scarf it back up before the morning shift comes on.

That’s called coprophagia, and a number of animals practice it, notably rabbits. They can hoover doots straight from their nethers. Rabbits eat their own poop in order to get just that much more nutrition out of it. That’s because the nutrient absorption happens only in the front end of the rabbit, but the fermentation that breaks down a lot of plant material happens in the other end, after the food has passed Go. (This takes place in an organ called the Cecum, a.k.a. Baltic Avenue.) So the rabbit sends everything through one more time to scoop up the remaining nutrients. Then it’s done. The pellets are different. There’s Number Two Number One, and Number Two Number Two, and nobody eats the Number Two Number Two, in case you were starting to think poorly of rabbits.

In any event, no one knows if a shark-face-eating giant isopod will eat his own eventual poop. A dog will, in a heartbeat, and there’s really no good reason why. People persist in thinking dogs are really smart, but I’ve never seen one unwind himself from a tree.


Thanks to Friend Of Pootie Kat Satnik for the news flash.