When a whale dies and sinks to the ocean floor, it sets in motion a new beginning for deep-sea life. Scientists call this a “whale fall,” and it moves through three fascinating stages.
A whale carcass brings a whopping amount of organic matter to a place where food is scarce. Within days, hagfishes, sleeper sharks and scavenging crustaceans arrive to feast on the remaining flesh. This first stage is called the mobile scavenger phase. Depending on the size of the carcass, the bones can be picked clean in a matter of months.