Whale fall; the process of decomposition in the ocean

Updated: Feb 25, 2021

It’s tragic to see any creature die of natural causes.

The ocean is a vast collection of water that holds many different animals. It’s interesting to see how each of those creatures die and decompose. Small creatures like crabs don’t decompose as slowly as whales because of the size difference. For example, the whale is a giant creature that can take months to years to decompose. Many creatures thrive off of the decomposing corpse of a large creature to survive like different types of crab and shrimp. Animals that look for their food instead of hunting are called scavengers .

Photo cred: https://images.app.goo.gl/UDaJuA3BTtk1z53r7

When a whale dies of natural causes and sinks all the ways to the bottom of the sea it’s called a whale fall. The whale carcass can also wash up on shore but that’s less common. The whale can become a great food source because of the many scavengers that live deep underwater. It takes longer to decompose because of the size of the whale, it’s fatty layer that stores a lot of fat and the cold water of the deep sea. The decomposition process has 3 parts to it. The first part allows different kinds of fish and squid to tear off the flesh of the whale and pull off the soft tissue. This part of the process can last 18 months. The second part of the process is the nearby fish and rock start to absorb into the whale bones this process can take up to 5 years to complete. The third part of the process is filter feeders like plankton completely cover the minerals on the bones and slowly decompose it till there’s nothing there. The whale becomes an ecosystem.



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