Hyperiid Amphipod

Hi everyone!  I hope you had fun trying to identify this week’s mystery creature!  It can really be a challenge to identify an organism from just one photograph – ideally, you’d be able to see the actual creature from many different angles.

So…the correct answer is Hyperiidea, or a hyperiid amphipod. Hyperiidea isn’t a species name; it’s the name of a suborder of amphipods.  There are roughly 7,000 species of amphipods that exist throughout the world, some of which are even found on land.  However, all the hyperiid amphipods are marine animals.

Hyperiid Amphipod

I was able to identify the exact species of this hyperiid amphipod. This is Cyllopus magellanus, which is an important prey item for Antarctic sea birds because these amphipods live near the surface in the epipelagic zone, or the upper 200 meters (656 feet) of the ocean. Some other species of amphipods are found at the deepest parts of the ocean, well over 5,000 meters (16,404 feet). 

Most of the amphipods we catch in Antarctica are ferocious predators. They are the first animal we take out of the net, or they will start eating other captured zooplankton. The menacing appearance of amphipods supposedly served as the inspiration for the queen alien in the 1986 movie Aliens (directed byJames Cameron).

We are going close to the shore next, in search of whales and fishes. Several scientists on board are tagging whales, primarily humpbacks, to study their movements and diets. I am planning to do some experiments on fishes, but we must find them first. Check back on Tuesday for our next I.D. Antarctica Mystery Creature!