Isopods appear to have a fairly paradoxical presence in public knowledge. Usually, whenever I start talking about isopods to the average person (often as one of the first things I mention when I meet someone), they will not recognize the term until I mention broad-covering common names, such as rolly polys or woodlice. On the other hand, if I talk to a specific kind of person, usually the naturalisting or hobbyist type, they will recognize isopods as the weird terrestrial crustaceans that are often kept as pets, such as dairy cows and (slightly less commonly) rubber duckies. Also recognized are the deep sea giants in Bathynomus, which are often kept in aquariums. Both of these isopod groups have a fairly heavy weight for an invertebrate in pop culture, with a quick search on Redbubble or Esty returning several dozen pages of isopod merchandise. Yet this somewhat niche interest still barely scrapes the true diversity of isopods. The order Isopoda contains a vast myriad of strange, beautiful, and in many cases, indisputably eldritch forms, most of which are unfortunately unknown to the vast majority of people. The goal of this guide is to disseminate knowledge of these poorly known crustaceans along with providing information on more well-known species.


The question of “what are isopods” can be answered multiple ways. Scientifically, they can be described taxonomically and morphologically, although both descriptions are reliant on the other to fully describe the group. Here we will describe the two methods separately before uniting them together: Taxonomy and Morphology.

Published: Apr 1, 2023
Last edited: Sept 7, 2023