The Stubbornest Little Isopod in All the World

From NPR, this tremendously weird and moving story about a foot-long crustacean who refused food for five years running:

Giant Isopod No. 1 arrived in Japan, settled in, and at first everything was fine. It ate normally, did all the things one would hope a giant isopod would do (stay still, then scuttle, wave its front legs, stop, stay still) until one day, on January 2, 2009, something happened.

It was mealtime, and after nibbling lightly on some horse mackerel, No. 1 stopped eating and walked away from its food. It wouldn’t finish.

The isopod’s caretaker tried everything, but to no avail.

Months went by. Then years. No.1 didn’t eat anything for all of 2010, then for all of 2011, then for all of 2012. By this time, word got out that a big crab was on some kind of hunger strike at Toba Aquarium, and people began showing up for its feedings, or rather, not-feedings, to see if it would finally break fast.

It didn’t. […] According to Rocket News, “Over time, the animal learned how to seem to appease its human keepers by moving its mouth and front legs around the food pretending to eat. In the end, it never actually took a bite. … No. 1 would simply play with its food.”

No.1 didn’t eat for all of 2013. That’s five years without a meal. No animal in captivity has refused food for that long, the Japanese press said. This was some kind of record. Why wouldn’t the animal eat? Nobody knew.

The caretaker discovered the isopod’s death this Valentine’s Day, after lowering in the last mackerel the creature would ever get the chance to refuse. [NPR, photo via]