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Introduction

The Stages of Whale-Fall Ecosystems.

For the most part, the nutrients found in the depths are supplied by a steady steam of organic debris falling down from shallower waters. It's not much, but it tends to be enough to sustain the sparse and barren depths. But every now and then, something much larger sinks to the seabed. It draws life from miles around to gather for a feast to last for decades. It is known as a whale-fall.

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Whale-fall ecosystems support an abundance of life in waves of successive communities. The carrion of the whale is first stripped of all its flesh by larger scavengers, like Greenland sharks. Once all the flesh is gone, and any debris in the sediment has been hoovered up by opportunists like ghost sharks, bacteria break down the bone lipids to produce energy that supports an ecosystem of life around the carcass.

It is thought that whale-falls may have been the crucial stepping stone that allowed deep-sea species to colonise the sea floor.

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Occasionally, a whale carcass will sink to the seabed, and can support a complex biological community for up to 50 years.

Most nutrients in the deep sea are supplied by a steady stream of organic debris, known as marine snow.

Mobile scavenger stage

Lasts 4 months - 2 years