- In 1987, oceanographers on a deep-sea expedition discovered a whale skeleton that was teeming with life
- They returned a year later for a better look, and discovered new species
- Other investigators have found 400 species in and around sunken whale carcasses
- Of these 400, 30 have never been seen before
- Evidence that whale carcasses could support life can be found all the way back to 1854
- At any given moment, there may be around 690,000 whale carcasses rotting at the bottoms of Earth's oceans
- Today, sunken whale carcass communities are believed to have three stages: scavenger, opportunist, and sulfophilic
- Oddly enough, researchers in other parts of the world have noticed that these three stages are not as apparent
- Osedax, a genus of boneworms that is not very populous in southern California, is the suspected culprit
- Osedax worms attach themselves to and feed on whale bones, which may be the reason for the discrepancies between locations
- To truly understand how these communities were ever initially established, fossil records must be analyzed
- Not much fossil records of sunken whale communities have been unearthed, but the discoveries have prompted more and more investigations
Although most people only know whale carcasses as big things that wash ashore, they can actually provide a welcoming habitat for deep-sea creatures. First discovered in 1854, sunken whale carcasses are the home to a community that can last for almost a century. These communities have three stages: scavenger, opportunist, and sulfophilic. However, a lot of communities do not have their stages as defined as others. It is believed that the Osedaxboneworm is to blame. Osedax feeds on the lipids and proteins in whale bones, significantly speeding up the process of skeleton consumption. Whatever the case, sunken whale carcass communities are now a topic of interest. Fossils are being unearthed and analyzed in an attempt to figure out exactly how these communities intially began.
ReflectionI didn't know that whale carcasses could lead to a community full of interesting critters. I always thought that decomposers at the bottom of the ocean were boring, microscopic little things. Boy, was I wrong! The Osedax worm is especially interesting. It's body is quite unlike anything I have ever seen before. Hopefully the whale population will continue to grow, so more carcass communities will form in the future. It wouldn't be bad at all to have more opportunities to take a look at this process.