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True Nature
Deep Dish
When a whale dies, it makes a splash with benthic organisms that feed on a smorgasbord of decaying organic matter.

Photo © 2007 Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

In 1987, making its way through the deep, dark waters of the Santa Catalina basin off the coast of southern California, the manned submersible Alvin stumbled across something scientists had never seen before. Settled on the sea floor was the 60-foot-long skeleton of a blue whale. Though the massive mammal had died and fallen to the bottom of the basin some time before, its remains were supporting a thriving community of extraordinary species, some of which had only ever been noted at deep-sea hydrothermal vents. Two decades later, scientists have discovered a handful more of these “whale falls”, and even sunk dead beached whales to study the unusual ecosystems that they foster.  Click through the photo gallery above for a look at whale falls in Monterey Bay—and some of their most beautiful and bizarre inhabitants.

 

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