The E/V Nautilus team’s enthusiasm is evident in this surprise encounter with a whale fall site. The live-streamed discovery occurred on October 16th, 2019 at Davidson Seamount off the coast of central California during the expedition‘s final dive of the year.
The skeletal remains of the whale lying on its back are estimated to be 4-5 meters long. The team is working to identify the species, but it is confirmed to be a baleen whale as indicated by baleen remaining along the whale’s jawbones.
While evidence of whale falls have been observed to remain on the seafloor for several years, this appears to be a relatively recent fall with baleen, blubber, and some internal organs remaining. The site also exhibits an interesting mid-stage of ecological succession, as both large scavengers like eelpouts are still stripping the skeleton of blubber, and bone-eating Osedax worms are starting to consume lipids (fats) from the bones. Other organisms seen onsite include crabs, grenadier, polychaetes, and deep-sea octopus.
The team took a second pass at viewing the community the following day. They discuss the scavengers and whale anatomy observations in an attempt to determine the species:
Then watch this exquisite paper puppet video, a TKSST favorite that also explains the stages of undersea feeding communities during the whale’s decomposition: Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale).
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