Cyborg: blending biology and technology

With an armour‐plated appearance, these creatures have evolved protective structures as protection against predators and the elements

By Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Dolichiscus cf. cornutus (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Dolichiscus cornutus (Beddard, 1886)

Dolichiscus cornutus is a species of deep-sea isopod. In comparison to the giant Bathynomus isopod featured below, however, it is almost delicate.

Dolichiscus cf. cornutus (2018-03-29) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Dolichiscus cornutus was first discovered in deep water off the Philippines. Little is known about its biology but like other deep-sea isopods it probably scavenges biological material, playing an important role in the ocean ecosystem. This species is found around the Western Pacific. Within ASEAN, it is found in deep water off Indonesia and the Philippines.

Plectostoma sciaphilum (2010-04-23) by Thor-Seng LiewLee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Plectostoma sciaphilum (van Benthem Jutting, 1952)

The shell of this land snail resembles the whirring oversized drill-like weapon used in ‘Transformers’ movies. The entire animal is, however, just 3 millimetres long. Tragically, this species has the dubious distinction of being the only mollusc from Southeast Asia known to have gone extinct. It was found on only one limestone hill that was quarried for limestone—proof of humanity’s destructive ability. This species is not found outside of ASEAN and within the region was known only from Bukit Panching, Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia.

Glyphocrangon serratirostris (2018-03-27) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Glyphocrangon serratirostris Komai, Yang & Chan, 2020

During the SJADES 2018 Expedition, this exquisitely sculptured shiny-eyed shrimp was collected at a depth of between 559 and 571 metres. This bottom dwelling shrimp possess a unique mechanism to lock its abdomen to protect against predators—like a type of reactive body armour. During the expedition, scientists suspected that it was a new and undescribed species, and it has only recently been named Glyphocrangon serratirostris. This species is only found in ASEAN in deep water off Java, Indonesia.

Scalicus cf. orientalis (2018-03-27) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Scalicus orientalis (Fowler, 1938)

This species belongs to a group of fish found in the Western Pacific Ocean known as armoured searobins.

Scalicus cf. orientalis (2018-03-27) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

With two long projections along the side of its head and four rows of bony ‘armour’ plates along the side of its body, this species looks like it could have been the inspiration for the submarine in ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ by Jules Verne.

Scalicus cf. orientalis (2018-03-27) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Beyond the ASEAN region, this species is found in deep water off China, India and Japan. Within ASEAN, it is found in the waters off Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand.

Bathynomus raksasa (2018-03-26) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Bathynomus raksasa Sidabalok, Wong & Ng, 2020

The other deep-sea isopod collected during the SJADES 2018 Expedition was a specimen of a deep-sea isopod that was only described and named in 2020. It is 30 centimetres long and was hauled up from a depth of 1,300 metres. The cyborg appearance of this animal is clear. With their armoured and segmented body they look like the inspiration for the aliens in sci-fi movies.

Bathynomus raksasa (2018-03-26) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

This species was named Bathynomus raksasa (“raksasa” meaning “giant” in Indonesian) by scientists from Singapore and Indonesia—another sign of closer research ties. Bathynomus isopods are also known as giant sea cockroaches and are important deep-sea scavengers. They feed on dead animals that sink to the ocean bottom and are integral to the ecosystem.

Bathynomus raksasa (2018-03-26) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

While eighteen species of Bathynomus are known from the Indian and Pacific Oceans, this is the first time a species of Bathynomus has been recorded from Indonesia. Bathynomus raksasa is currently only known from ASEAN and from deep water off Java, Indonesia.

Bathynomus raksasa (2018-03-26) by SJADES 2018Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum

Creatures such as these cyborgs which appear to blend the natural with the synthetic will always capture our interest. An inspiration for the sci-fi genre for generations to come.

Credits: Story

Text:

Bathynomus raksasa
SJADES 2018
(Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia and National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Dolichiscus cf. cornutus
Glyphocrangon serratirostris
Scalicus cf. orientalis
Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum
(National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Plectostoma sciaphilum
Thor-Seng Liew
(Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)


Images:
Bathynomus raksasa
Dolichiscus cf. cornutus
Glyphocrangon serratirostris
Scalicus cf. orientalis
SJADES 2018
(Indonesian Institute of Sciences, Indonesia and National University of Singapore, Singapore)

Plectostoma sciaphilum
Thor-Seng Liew
(Universiti Malaysia Sabah, Malaysia)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Related theme
Natural History
The beautiful, the dangerous, the endangered. Up close.
View theme
Google apps