Have you ever looked in the fridge late at night, hungry as a bear, and realized you had some leftover chicken or fish or $900 Costco cheese? It’s an exciting moment to say the least. So one can only imagine how excited this small army of octopi must have been when it stumbled upon a delectable meal of baleen whale carcass. Although we’ll go ahead and guess they probably weren’t half as happy as the crew that discovered said octopi feeding on the carcass is in this video.
The video comes to YouTube courtesy of the team running the Exploration Vessel Nautilus (or E/V Nautilus), a not-for-profit scientific research vessel that’s been searching the ocean’s depths for crazy deep sea creatures for years. And crazy creatures this research vessel has found indeed. Some of the highlights from the lowlights (really, pitch-blackness) of the ocean’s depths, include this eel with a ballooning jaw, this pulsating Deepstaria Jellyfish, and this “Googly Eyed Stubby Squid.” And now, we have this whale carcass discovered in the Davidson Seamount off central California’s coast to add to the list observed oceanic phenomena.
Even though the idea of finding a heavily decomposed whale body—which is technically referred to as a whale fall in this case because of where it is in the ocean and how deep it is beneath the water’s surface—may seem kind of bleak and/or gross, the E/V Nautilus’ team’s excitement betrays the true significance of this occasion. As E/V Nautilus’ description for the video notes, “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.”
WHALEY BIG FIND! We’re still documenting the baleen whale skeleton we discovered with @MBNMS at Davidson Seamount off central CA’s coast. Scavenging fish and octopus strip blubber while bone-eating Osedax worms dissolve bones onsite.
— E/V Nautilus (@EVNautilus) October 16, 2019
Because of that baleen, the E/V Nautilus’ crew knows that this is, without a doubt, the corpse of a baleen whale. Although which species of baleen whale it is still remains a mystery. That doesn’t really seem relevant considering all the extremely disgusting activities that are simultaneously happening in this video.
And if you’re saying to yourself, “This is just nature at work, there’s nothing disgusting about this.” Fine. We’ll let the whole “circle of life” thing make the smattering of gorging octopi and slimy fish and decomposed organs seem beautiful in a cosmic sense. But the “fuzz” on those bones, yeah, that ain’t fuzz. Those are actually Osedax worms, which are known colloquially as “bone-eating snot flower worms.” Osedax worms don’t have mouths or teeth, and instead rely on acid to drill into the whale bones and extract lipids. Also, around 50-100 males live inside of one female.
The brown “fuzz” on the bones here is actually tons and tons of worms.
What do you think of this whale fall buffet? Do you wish we never told you about those “bone-eating snot flower worms”? Let us pick away at your thoughts in the comments!