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Meet the Giant Isopod Who Has Shocked an Aquarium With His Hunger Strike

Not-so-creatively named “No. 1” by Japan’s Toba Aquarium, this giant isopod has taken the term "hunger strike" to a new level — and aquarists are stumped.


What do you do when a captive giant isopod refuses to eat?

 

 

It's a question the workers at Japan's Toba Aquarium never found the answer to. For five long years, their giant isopod, No. 1, refused to eat. Not just once, not just twice, not just when it was cranky. Nope, for 1,868 consecutive days, No. 1 refused to consume a crumb.

Named because he was the first of nine giant isopods to grace the aquarium's presence, No. 1 was a big deal when he made his debut. The animals are popular in Japan.

 

That's partly because phone cases in which the squiggly legs of a giant isopod wrapped around an iPhone were all the rage a few years back.

 

At first, the insect-looking crustacean lived up to his high expectations, scuttling around pleasing crowds.

Photo Credit: Flickr, Damien du Toit

 

But then, on January 2, 2009, something changed. His caretaker approached him as usual with a meal of horse mackerel.

 

No. 1 took a few bites, but then walked away without finishing.

 

The aquarium worker was confused, and attempted different approaches to feeding — pushing the food toward him, changing his conditions to stimulate hunger, trying new foods, etc.

 

As time went on, No. 1 was smart enough to learn that he should play with his food a bit in an attempt to fool his masters into thinking he'd finally eaten.

 

But No. 1 was on a hunger strike, and he wouldn't eat again for the rest of his life. His refusal became infamous, and crowds starting showing up at the aquarium hoping to catch him enjoying his "first" meal.

No. 1 didn't back down. On Valentine's Day 2014, his handlers came as always, ready to try to give him a meal. Instead, they found he was unresponsive. No. 1 had finally died of hunger.

Scientists dissected the animal to determine if there was an immediate answer as to why it wouldn't eat. They haven't found anything yet, but are committed to keeping the research alive in the hope it doesn't happen again.

RIP, No. 1. You had quite a run.

 

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