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Discovery of a recent, natural whale fall on the continental slope off Anvers Island, western Antarctic Peninsula

Discovery of a recent, natural whale fall on the continental slope off Anvers Island, western Antarctic Peninsula
Discovery of a recent, natural whale fall on the continental slope off Anvers Island, western Antarctic Peninsula
Whale falls provide a substantial, nutrient-rich resource for opportunistic species in areas of the ocean that may otherwise be largely devoid of food. We report the discovery of a natural whale fall at 1430 m depth in the cold waters of the continental slope off the western Antarctic Peninsula. This is the highest latitude whale fall reported to date. The section of the carcass we observed—the tail fluke—was more complete than any previously reported natural whale fall from the deep sea and in the early stages of decomposition. We estimate the entire cetacean to measure 5 to 8 m in length. The flesh remained almost intact on the carcass but the skin had been removed from the entire section except for the end of the fluke, clearly exposing blubber and soft tissue. The absence of skin indicates rapid and homogenous removal by scavengers. The dominant macrofauna present were crustaceans, including most prominently the lithodid crab Paralomis birsteini, and zoarcid fish typical of the ‘mobile-scavenger’ successional stage. The density of mobile macrofauna was greatest on the carcass and declined to background levels within 100 m, indicating that they were attracted to the whale fall. This whale fall offers an important opportunity to examine the decomposition of a carcass under deep-sea conditions at polar latitudes.
Polar, Deep Sea, Food Fall, Cetacean, Mobile-Scavenger, Paralomis birsteini, Whale Fall
0967-0637
76-80
Smith, Kathryn E.
dace2668-69f3-40cc-a526-541c4b41c8b8
Thatje, Sven
f1011fe3-1048-40c0-97c1-e93b796e6533
Singh, Hanumant
9c106fa2-28f0-4de9-aaf7-519d6874b1f0
Amsler, Margaret O.
83819d11-edca-4fcc-bad9-a09d3b354d4f
Vos, Stephanie C.
d5028b38-37db-46d8-8325-d9bdd73f4de5
McClintock, Jim B.
824120ba-b52f-47e4-91dd-8c4e3471bc81
Brothers, Cecilia J.
d00b6815-55ab-466a-9d22-5bfafc69dd36
Brown, Alastair
909f34db-bc9c-403f-ba8f-31aee1c00161
Ellis, Daniel
558105b9-1652-4626-b232-6cb7a5c93fd4
Anderson, Jeff
1160b61b-2537-43f3-8ef7-150f2357413e
Aronson, Richard B.
6a8f363e-1e57-4145-868f-aa5ef46e32fc
Smith, Kathryn E.
dace2668-69f3-40cc-a526-541c4b41c8b8
Thatje, Sven
f1011fe3-1048-40c0-97c1-e93b796e6533
Singh, Hanumant
9c106fa2-28f0-4de9-aaf7-519d6874b1f0
Amsler, Margaret O.
83819d11-edca-4fcc-bad9-a09d3b354d4f
Vos, Stephanie C.
d5028b38-37db-46d8-8325-d9bdd73f4de5
McClintock, Jim B.
824120ba-b52f-47e4-91dd-8c4e3471bc81
Brothers, Cecilia J.
d00b6815-55ab-466a-9d22-5bfafc69dd36
Brown, Alastair
909f34db-bc9c-403f-ba8f-31aee1c00161
Ellis, Daniel
558105b9-1652-4626-b232-6cb7a5c93fd4
Anderson, Jeff
1160b61b-2537-43f3-8ef7-150f2357413e
Aronson, Richard B.
6a8f363e-1e57-4145-868f-aa5ef46e32fc

Smith, Kathryn E., Thatje, Sven, Singh, Hanumant, Amsler, Margaret O., Vos, Stephanie C., McClintock, Jim B., Brothers, Cecilia J., Brown, Alastair, Ellis, Daniel, Anderson, Jeff and Aronson, Richard B. (2014) Discovery of a recent, natural whale fall on the continental slope off Anvers Island, western Antarctic Peninsula. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 90, 76-80. (doi:10.1016/j.dsr.2014.04.013).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Whale falls provide a substantial, nutrient-rich resource for opportunistic species in areas of the ocean that may otherwise be largely devoid of food. We report the discovery of a natural whale fall at 1430 m depth in the cold waters of the continental slope off the western Antarctic Peninsula. This is the highest latitude whale fall reported to date. The section of the carcass we observed—the tail fluke—was more complete than any previously reported natural whale fall from the deep sea and in the early stages of decomposition. We estimate the entire cetacean to measure 5 to 8 m in length. The flesh remained almost intact on the carcass but the skin had been removed from the entire section except for the end of the fluke, clearly exposing blubber and soft tissue. The absence of skin indicates rapid and homogenous removal by scavengers. The dominant macrofauna present were crustaceans, including most prominently the lithodid crab Paralomis birsteini, and zoarcid fish typical of the ‘mobile-scavenger’ successional stage. The density of mobile macrofauna was greatest on the carcass and declined to background levels within 100 m, indicating that they were attracted to the whale fall. This whale fall offers an important opportunity to examine the decomposition of a carcass under deep-sea conditions at polar latitudes.

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More information

Published date: August 2014
Keywords: Polar, Deep Sea, Food Fall, Cetacean, Mobile-Scavenger, Paralomis birsteini, Whale Fall
Organisations: Ocean and Earth Science, Southampton Marine & Maritime Institute

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 363671
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/363671
ISSN: 0967-0637
PURE UUID: c8932127-dab2-4a8e-b96b-0f483004903d

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 31 Mar 2014 08:20
Last modified: 16 Jul 2019 21:08

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