Thursday, February 09, 2006

101 USES FOR A DEAD WHALE



Forget the Japanese and their "whale science". This man has it right. Craig Smith is a marine biologist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.
Since 1992, he has been putting scrap metal on dead whales and sending them to the bottom of the ocean. He's done this with seven whales so far.

Smith and Amy Baco-Taylor of Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst. have estimated that 69,000 great whales die every year from disease and malnutrition and sink. The water pressure below about 1000 metres crushes the decomposition gases so they stay down. They also estimate that at any one time there are more than 850,000 whale falls on an average 12 kilometres apart.

Smith has been studying whale falls since 1998 including the ones he has sunk. A whale fall is a nutrient bonanza to over 40 species of deep sea life. In 1998, Smith sank a 35 tonne grey whale which was stripped to the bone in a year and a half. He estimates a large 160 tonne blue whale (pictured above) would take up to 11 years.

After the whale flesh is eaten, the whale bones which are 60 per cent fat become covered in fat-eating worms, snails, clams and limpets, some of which are only found on whale carcases. First described in 2004 are the bone-eating Zombie worms. They consist of roots that bore into the bones and extract fat with the help of symbiotic bacteria living within the worms.

This second stage of eating, which lasted four years in the 35 tonne grey, is followed by anaerobic bacteria gradually invading the interior of the bones and breaking down the remaining fat while leaching out sulphides. The sulphides sustain a community of clams, limpets, crustaceans, mussels and worms. As many as 185 species can be around the whale skeleton at this stage.

The whale skeleton discovered in 1987 is still being eaten after 60 years and Smith estimates that a large whale could keep going for a 100 years or more. He's hoping for a beached whale in New Zealand as he wants to sink a carcase in those waters to find out how many new species live off whale falls in this area.

In 1934, zoologist August Krogh speculated that dead whales sink to the bottom and are eaten by whatever lives down there but it's taken us this long to find out. It costs Craig Smith around $8,000 to sink each whale but we can't put a price on the data he collects about the abyss dwellers.

8 comments:

JD Allen said...

Yeah, nothing gets wasted, in the long run. Even people who are embalmed to the max, even Egyptian (and other) mummies, everything eventually recycles.

The only way NOT to, is to be blasted into space, outside the earth's gravity well.

JahTeh said...

What is stupid is we know more about space than our own planet. They've just discovered that the currents around Greenland are going astray, now it's a rush to find out how bad it can be.
Thanks for that quaint expression about a fossil, JD, saving it for the right moment.

Anonymous said...

I actually have a question, not a comment. It is a totally different subject to the one you all are discussing. My question is: "Is it true that there is a new experiment with whale fat being used as a weightloss injection method?" If you know of such a thing, please inform me of it. I actually find it weird.

Anonymous said...

YOU ARE ALL MEAN
WHALES ARE LIVING CREACTURES, ANIMALS JUST WANTING TO LIVE WHY WILL NO ONE LISTEN

EVEN IF I HAVE TO I WILL SPEND MILLONS TO STOP PEOPLE KILLING THE POOR WHALES!!!!!!

STOP KILLING WHALES

SARAH JESSICA PARKER...x

Anonymous said...

That was really gross.. but all the same awesome.
11 years?? pretty unbelievable, but then againg 160 ton!!!

Anonymous said...

Im totally with you.
LEAVE WHALES ALONE
they haven't done anything to us.
Weightloss injections?
Eww.. they should get of their couch and go jog or somthing.
Dont kill poor whales for such a stupid cause... everyone is getting lazy!!!

Anonymous said...

why the hell would that person post anonymous, and then say "SARAH JESSICA PARKER...X" at the end of their post... and its probably not her either. wtf

General Viagra said...

It is really amazing how a big animal like whales can become food for differents organisms. From their flesh until their bones aren't really wasted in the sea.