Octopuses & bone-eating worms feast on whale skeleton

Published on October 17, 2019 by

This is the moment scientists discovered a fallen whale carcass being devoured by marine scavengers at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean.

Among the creatures seen in the incredible footage are some of the 1,000 brooding female octopuses they had been looking for on the rocky reef.

Wildlife fans were in for a treat watching a live stream of the expedition by the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary which began on Monday.

A dive team, led by expedition leader Nicole Raineault, made the 10,000-foot descent onto the Davidson Seamount to record the unexplored, deep-water region.

But while hoping to find living specimens such as the female octopuses, they came across the huge whale skeleton that had recently fallen to the ocean floor.

‘During the final dive of this year’s Nautilus expedition season, our team discovered a whale fall while exploring Davidson Seamount off central California’s coast,’ a member of the onshore research crew said.

‘The skeletal remains of the whale lying on its back are estimated to be 4-5 meters long.’

The research team are still working to identify the whale species, although it is known to be a baleen whale because of parts of its filter system that remain along the whale’s jawbones.

While evidence of whale falls have been observed to remain on the seafloor for several years, this appears to be a relatively recent fall with baleen, blubber, and some internal organs remaining.

The site of the whale fall also excited the explorers by hosting both large scavengers like eel pouts are still stripping the skeleton of blubber, and bone-eating Osedax worms are starting to consume lipids fats from the bones.

Other organisms seen onsite include crabs, grenadier, polychaetes, and deep-sea octopus.

‘That’s one of the most exciting things about exploration,’ said Nautilus Expedition leader Nicole Raineault. ‘We never know what we’re going to find and we have a network of experts who are either onshore or here with us that can help explain it.’

Nautilus and the MBNMS first discovered the extensive aggregations of over 1,000 brooding female octopuses in October last year and had returned for further research.


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