A Report…on whales…and falling

April 3, 2008

I’m completely infatuated with something called whale falls. Shortly after scientists discovered that whole ecosystems existed around hydrothermal vents and cold seeps in the deepest part of the ocean, they soon discovered that the same occured when whales sink to the bottom of the sea when they die.In 1987, the submersible Alvin first discovered a whale fall. The leading marine biologist studying is Craig Smith who is currently researching staged whale falls to study the exact process of decomposition and the various undiscovered species which find their way to the whales. Here is an example of those stages:”1. A mobile scavenger stage,lasting ~4 months to >1.5 years, during which deep-sea necrophages (hagfish, lysianassid amphipods, macrourid fish, sleeper sharks) remove most soft tissue.2. An enrichment opportunist stagewherein surrounding sediments are heavily colonized by newly discovered chrysopetalid and dorvilleid polychaetes, cumaceans, and in some cases, juvenile gastropods and bivalves.3. A sulfophilic (chemoautotrophic) stagecontaining >200 macrofaunal species, 10 of which also occur at hydrothermal vents and 12 at cold seeps. The sulfophilic stage includes mussels (Idas washingtonia) which appear early in the evolutionary lineage of the vent-seep subfamily Bathymodiolinae. Measurements of 210Pb/226Ra disequilibrium suggest that the sulfophilic stage on large skeletons lasts decades.”The significance of the whale fall is that it is believed to be “stepping stones” between hydrothermal vents and there for “stepping stones” between ecosystems. It is likely that many species have evolved and made their way to more shallow water over time from whale stepping stones. The amount of new animals which have been discovered at a whale’s corpse is really amazing. Thinking about Buddhism and various ideas of reincarnation and faith and dying and spiritualism and the afterlife… it is something to think that a constant in living is that all ecosystems survive off of the fall of others. here are some links if you’re just that interested:This whale’s afterlifeEcology of whale fallsA whale of a tale

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