E/V Nautilus found a recently deceased whale
October 16, 2019 1:00 PM   Subscribe

WHALEFALL! NOAA's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s exploration vessel Nautilus has “just discovered a whale skeleton on the seafloor covered in bone-eating worms, cusk eels, and octopus devouring this massive deep sea meal.” You can watch live, with commentary by the Nautilus team, who are also taking questions.
posted by Kattullus (28 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
This is lovely. Terrifyingly lovely. You just made the day better.
posted by Fizz at 1:06 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Nautilus posts and discoveries previously:

Weird purple thing!
A Jellyfish!
An eel that looks like a muppet!
A live whale!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:13 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

This had better be a 5.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 1:22 PM on October 16, 2019

Metafilter: squooshy, nerve-like and gelatinous
posted by zamboni at 1:29 PM on October 16, 2019

The octopus is photo-bombing us right now.
posted by zamboni at 1:29 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

This is just a Disney+ ad for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, right? That octopus is AWESOME.
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:32 PM on October 16, 2019

Loading it up just in time for the Octopus water quality scientist was a real treat. Now back to the data mines.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:38 PM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

No sign of any chestburster, I hope...
posted by chavenet at 1:39 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thank you for posting! I was intrigued watching the youtube channel. I am now 100% loving the voiceover from the scientists. Currently they are talking about wanting to retrieve a bone that is "free and has good worm coverage". Another scientist interjected they had 914 youtube viewers.

This is BEST of the web!
posted by heatherbeth at 1:43 PM on October 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Those octopuses are beautiful! This is fascinating thank you.
posted by Bacon Bit at 1:45 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Squat lobster! Now I have the B-52s in my head.
posted by rewil at 2:06 PM on October 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

This has made my day so much better - the visuals have been fantastic, but even when I've had to work and could only pay attention the audio, the nerdy, pun-laden scientist banter has been absolutely charming and edifying.

A+, would watch octopus photobombs and osedax worms swaying in the current 10,000 feet below the surface again.
posted by verschollen at 2:49 PM on October 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

watch it "live"
posted by GuyZero at 2:56 PM on October 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

They have wandered away from the whale carcass, but you can rewind the YouTube feed to see it in all its glory.
posted by Kattullus at 3:45 PM on October 16, 2019

Whalefall previously (Ursula Vernon's 2017 Hugo acceptance speech).
posted by Lexica at 4:35 PM on October 16, 2019 [4 favorites]

The tabletop miniatures wargame “Deep Wars” is set at the bottom of the ocean, pitting Jules Verne-sequel adventurers in diving suits against mermen fighting invasion, that sorta thing.

One thing they make is whalefall resin terrain piece for your troopers to take cover behind.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:43 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

A Whale's Afterlife
Whale falls may occur as frequently as every ten miles on the seafloor; at any given time, there are likely hundreds of thousands of them around the world. A 2015 review paper by the deep-sea ecologist Craig Smith, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and a number of collaborators proposed that decaying whale carcasses may serve “as a sort of biodiversity generator,” allowing organisms from different energy-rich seafloor oases, such as thermal vents or methane seeps, to mingle. The importance of these deep-sea ecosystems makes whale falls especially fascinating. Seafloor microbes consume methane, which is a greenhouse gas, and provide biomass that ultimately sustains fish populations. Rouse’s team is monitoring a number of habitats around Rosebud to understand how they’re connected, and how deep-sea oases like whale falls and seeps might drive evolution.

There are creatures that have been observed at whale falls and nowhere else. Osedax are among them. Shana Goffredi, a biologist at Occidental College, was part of the team that first analyzed the Osedax worm in detail, at a whale fall in Monterey Canyon, around four hundred miles northwest of San Diego. Since then, she has led several research projects to piece together the worm’s genetic heritage and bizarre way of life. The first scavengers at a whale fall feast on the flesh. “Anything could take advantage of that,” Goffredi told me, dismissively. Osedax—Latin for “bone-eater”—“are specifically relying on bone, which is a weird, weird thing to eat.”

Osedax are strange organisms. Their free-floating larvae latch onto a bone’s outer layers, sifting through the water for a specific type of bacteria, Oceanospirillales, which they cultivate inside their bodies. Like the tube worms that are found at hydrothermal vents, Osedax have no mouth and no gut; their symbiotic partners are essential to their survival. While still unclear, it’s thought that the enzymes made by the Oceanospirillales bacteria could degrade collagen and cholesterol inside the bone, providing nutrition for themselves as well as their host worms. Beyond Osedax, scientists are discovering more species found exclusively on whale carcasses. These include bacteria-grazing scale worms and bone-eating snails—creatures whose ingenious inter-organism partnerships equip them to extract energy from rock-hard bone.
posted by Rumple at 5:51 PM on October 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Every time I see the vessel’s name I think of the old Disney ship, both the attraction and the one in the movie with the giant theatrical organ. I shall continue to visualize this.
posted by mwhybark at 6:04 PM on October 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

Did they ever say how big the whale was? It's hard to tell the scale of things but to me looks pretty small, like maybe 20-ish feet long at most?
posted by Greg_Ace at 6:12 PM on October 16, 2019

Greg_Ace I think they estimated its length relative to the ROV as about 4 to 5 metres, meaning (IMHO) it must be a juvenile considering it's a baleen whale of some kind. Lots of zooarchaeologist could ID this to species in a heartbeat - the commentators spend a bunch of time with a whale bone key which isn't working well for them especially as the whale is upside down.

It's surprising how unreactive to light these deep sea creatures are.
posted by Rumple at 6:17 PM on October 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's surprising how unreactive to light these deep sea creatures are.

I'm guessing that they have little use for light, and are blind or close to.

Back in 2015 I made an FPP entitled "What the whale inspired was wonderment, a dilation of the ordinary", about Rebecca Gigg's amazing essay for Granta, Whale Fall, and always thought I could have framed the post better and perhaps inspired more people to read it...seems like a good time to link it again. It's a magic piece of writing, though devastating in parts.
posted by jokeefe at 8:49 PM on October 16, 2019 [8 favorites]

I've been very thankful for FPPs before, but this came at a perfect time today while I was stressing about assignments. The feed was amazing, it was great listening to the scientists go about their business, the deep ocean is cool, seeing a whalefall even more so.

Someone just let me live on a ship already, that is my bread & circus, they didn't know what they were doing when they turned down my navy application.
posted by Acid Communist at 5:41 AM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

They say "whale bones." I say "baby Cthulhu."
posted by eisenkrote at 7:12 AM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

bone-eating worms

I know they're real, but that still sounds like something from a brochure for the Bad Place.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 7:55 AM on October 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

Did anyone find a smashed bowl of petunias nearby?
posted by SansPoint at 9:05 AM on October 17, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm guessing that they have little use for light, and are blind or close to.

Fair point, though many deep sea creatures use bioluminescence to attract or defend against prey and so it would seem they do have light sensing eyes -- mostly in the blue range. Dumbo octopuses can change colour the same regular octopuses can, presumably for defence, and they have huge eyes but relatively poor eyesight (but not none).

So maybe the ROV floodlights are tinted towards the red end of the spectrum or somehow account for this?
posted by Rumple at 11:24 AM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Thanks for posting this, just what I needed today
posted by Bornanerd at 6:23 PM on October 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh very cool! Thanks!
posted by rmd1023 at 6:24 AM on October 21, 2019

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