Whalefalls

The Long Dark

anim1754_-_flickr_-_noaa_photo_librarybw

anim1754_-_flickr_-_noaa_photo_library

Jake Jasko
Assistant Editor-in-Chief

Because whales weren’t tragic enough, right?

Whale falls are a phenomenon that happen when a whale dies, and its corpse begins the long, slow descent to the bottom of the ocean. This only happens in areas where the ocean is incredibly deep, such as the bathyal or abyssal zones of the sea (deeper than 1,000 meters below sea level).

Sunlight can only reach so far through water, and when a whale carcass continues to sink and sink into these light-less zones, it can become a home to a complex and unique ecosystem.
First observed in the 1970s, whale falls prove to be an incredibly morbid example of nature’s tendency to ‘find a way’.

Species of all kinds, like some prawns, shrimps and lobsters, can subsist and survive within the ever-so-slowly-falling body of a massive mammal.

These unique and rather rare events even play host to some incredibly strange specimens, such as zombie worms – Named for their lack of eyes and mouths and hagfish, eel-shaped fish without spinal columns.

Whale falls offer us insight into just how strange, complex and eerie the deep waters of our relatively unexplored oceans can be! The deeper we go, the less light there is, the more we learn about the adaptability of living organisms.

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