Sixty-five million years ago, the planet Earth was hit by a wave of extinction that left few living marine organisms alive.
Today, scientists are trying to convince of what remains of the abyss and capture ancient creatures with rare delicacy from the past.
A fascinating yet fascinating new video shows a troop of insects from the depths of the sea attached to the carcass of an alligator, which researchers from the Consortium of Universities of Louisiana (LUMCON) plunged two kilometers from the Gulf of Mexico.
In less than 24 hours, the giant invertebrates had somehow sniffed the rare meal, gorging themselves to the point of becoming "immobile" or "stupefied", sometimes diving to the ground.
"I was surprised that there are already giant isopods everywhere," says Craig McCLain of the LUMCON team in the video.
"I thought it would take them a little while to get the chemical signals that would allow them to somehow locate a drop of food like an alligator."
It sounds absurd and, if possible, even more so. Pink cockroaches the size of a football are called giant isopods (Bathynomus giganteus), and it is thought that some groups have an ancient origin in the deep sea, dating back 200 or 300 million years.
As the researchers explain in their video, these strange creatures are actually related to the bug bugs, except that they are huge. They are some of the strangest creatures found in the deep sea and stamina is their little thing: giant insects can go without food for months or even years.
Buried under the surface of the ocean, a league from a light source, they must look for carbon wherever they can get it. This means that when a whale or a big fish dies and sinks, his body becomes an oasis of food in an otherwise desolate landscape.
The researchers say that alligators could be the last refuge for some of the oldest invertebrates.
"Before the existence of whales," writes McClain, "perhaps large marine reptiles such as ichthyosaurs, mosasaurs, and plesiosaurs harbored diverse and endemic invertebrate communities on sunken carcasses."
Many fossil research suggests that this could have been the case. In fact, it is probably always the case.
Large rivers, tropical storms and even hurricanes have all played a role in the transportation of alligators in the Gulf, sometimes up to 25 kilometers off the coast, as was the case during Hurricane Katrina.
Thanks to what is the first recorded "fall of reptile", we now know that if these creatures sink, their carcasses will not be lost. And it is unlikely that isopods are the only reclaimers.
Once insects cross the carcass and eat it from the inside, smaller organisms can arrive and try their luck with the remains.
The researchers predict that half of the carcass will be gone in two months, when the team will return to the site.
Now we are waiting.