whale

Whale fall

When a whale dies and its carcass falls into the Bathyal or Abyssal zone of the ocean floor, it can sustain a complex localized ecosystem of deep-sea organisms for decades. This is called a “whale fall”.

A whale fall is the carcass of a cetacean that has fallen into the Bathyal or Abyssal zone on the ocean floor. As they are found at depths of 2,000 m or 6,600 ft, they create complex localized ecosystems that supply sustenance to deep-sea organisms for decades. This is unlike in shallower waters, where a whale carcass will be consumed by scavengers over a relatively short period of time. It was with the development of deep-sea robotic exploration that whale falls were first observed in the late 1970s.

Organisms that have been observed at deep-sea whale falls include giant isopods, squat lobsters, bristleworms, prawns, shrimp, lobsters, hagfish, Osedax, crabs, sea cucumbers, and sleeper sharks.

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