The fate of cetacean carcasses in the deep sea

Emma G, Jones, Martin Collins, Philip Michael Bagley, S Addison, Imants George Priede

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Citations (Scopus)


The fate of cetacean carcasses in the deep sea was investigated using autonomous deep-sea lander vehicles incorporating time-lapse camera systems, fish and amphipod traps. Three lander deployments placed cetacean carcasses at depths of 4000-4800 m in the north-east Atlantic for periods of 36 h, 152 h and 276 h before being recovered. The photographic sequences revealed that carcasses were rapidly consumed by fish and invertebrate scavengers with removal rates ranging from 0.05-0.4 kgh(-1). In the longest experiment the carcass was skeletonized within five days. In each deployment, approximately an hour after emplacement, the grenadier Coryphaenoides (Nematonurus) armatus and large numbers of lysianassid amphipods had arrived at the food-fall. The initially high numbers of grenadiers declined once the majority of the bait had been consumed and a variety of other fish and invertebrates were then observed, some taking up residence at the site. None of the fish species appeared to consume the carcass directly, but preyed upon amphipods instead. Funnel traps recovered with the carcass indicated a succession in the species composition of amphipods, with the specialist necrophages such as Paralicella spp. being replaced by more generalist feeders of the Orchomene species complex.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1119-1127
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society of London. B, Biological Sciences
Issue number1401
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 1998


  • food-fall
  • autonomous lander
  • scavengers
  • cetaceans
  • Coryphaenoides (N.) armatus
  • amphipod
  • fish assemblage structure
  • porcupine seabight
  • demersal fish
  • Nekton falls
  • food-falls
  • amphipods
  • insitu
  • floor
  • slope
  • disturbance


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