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What is a whale fall community?

3 min read

Asked by: Elliott Bharadwaj

When whales die and sink, the whale carcasses, or whale falls, provide a sudden, concentrated food source and a bonanza for organisms in the deep sea. Different stages in the decomposition of a whale carcass support a succession of marine biological communities.

How long does a whale fall community last?

These are animals which colonize the bones and surrounding sediments that have been contaminated with organic matter from the carcass and any other tissue left by the scavengers. This stage can last months up to 4.5 years.

What are the 3 stages of a whale fall community?

Free-moving scavengers, like rattails, hagfishes, sharks, and octopuses, remove and consume the whale’s soft tissues.

  • STAGE 1: MOBILE-SCAVENGER STAGE, MONTHS-5 YEARS. …
  • STAGE 2: ENRICHMENT-OPPORTUNIST STAGE, MONTHS – 2 YEARS. …
  • STAGE 3: SULPHOPHILIC STAGE, UP TO 50 YEARS. …
  • STAGE 4: REEF STAGE, UNKNOWN.


How many succession stages are documented in a whale fall community?

four stages

Deep-sea whale-fall communities have been hypothesized and observed to pass through up to four stages of eco- logical succession: 1.

How often do whale falls occur?

roughly every 5 to 16 km

But whale falls might be relatively common. Smith estimates that, based on current whale populations and whale-fall community persistence, dead whales may occur roughly every 5 to 16 km along the seafloor off the Pacific coast of North America. Distances such as these are easily traversed by planktonic larvae.

What happens after a whale fall?

When whales die and sink, the whale carcasses, or whale falls, provide a sudden, concentrated food source and a bonanza for organisms in the deep sea. Different stages in the decomposition of a whale carcass support a succession of marine biological communities. Scavengers consume the soft tissue in a matter of months.

Why does a whale explode when it dies?

A decomposing whale carcass generates gases which build up inside their stomach and large internal organs. This then causes them to expand, but whale skin and blubber are tough so the gases become trapped inside, according to National Geographic.

Do all dead whales explode?

And as a whale has strong blubber a thick layer of vascularized fatty tissue under the already tough skin these gases have no way to escape as a result it creates a highly acidic.

How does a whale fall community affect ocean?

How does a whale-fall community affect ocean sediment? The decomposition of the whale enriches the sediment.

What happens when a whale dies in the ocean?

When a whale dies in the ocean, its carcass can become home to entirely new ecosystems. When whales die in the ocean, their bodies eventually sink to the bottom. Once the body comes to rest, biologists refer to this as a whale fall. As you would guess, other fish and sea animals initially eat the meat off the carcass.

What eats whale fall?

Specialised mollusc and tube worm species are chemoautotrophs that take advantage of whale falls, feeding on the chemicals released from the bones.

Do dead whales float or sink?

Dead whales can float on the ocean surface for a little while. The carcasses, weighing dozens of tons, are buoyed by the same gases that cause them to bloat. On the surface, the carcass again is a feast for birds, sharks, and other fish. Dead whales ultimately sink to the ocean floor.

When was the first whale fall discovered?

Whale falls were first discovered in 1854 after a new mussel species was found inside a piece of whale blubber. Approximately 100 years later, deep-sea trawlers were recovering more evidence of these unique ecosystems. One of the best studies of the events started in 1988 by researchers from the University of Hawaii.