Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

New Species Discovered On Whale Skeletons

Date:
September 21, 2009
Source:
University of Gothenburg
Summary:
When a whale dies, it sinks to the seafloor and becomes food for an entire ecosystem. Researchers have discovered previously unknown species that feed only on dead whales -- and have used DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought.

When a whale dies, it sinks to the seafloor and becomes food for an entire ecosystem. Researchers have discovered previously unknown species that feed only on dead whales - and use DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought.
Credit: Craig R Smith

When a whale dies, it sinks to the seafloor and becomes food for an entire ecosystem. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, have discovered previously unknown species that feed only on dead whales -- and have used DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought.

Related Articles


Dead whales constitute an unpredictable food source - it is impossible to know when and where a whale is going to die, and when it does, the food source does not last forever. Nevertheless, some marine species have specialised in feeding on whale cadavers.

Big source of nutrients

This is shown by researchers at the University of Gothenburg who have studied the ecosystem around dead whales using underwater cameras. A dead whale is an enormous source of nutrients. In fact, one cadaver offers the same amount of nutrients that normally sinks from the surface to the seafloor in 2000 years, and this is of great benefit to innumerable species: First the meat is eaten by for example sharks and hagfish, then tremendous amounts of various organisms come to feast on the skeleton.

Specialised worms

One group of animals commonly found on whale skeletons is bristleworms, which are related to the earthworm. Some bristleworm species are so specialised in eating dead whales they would have problems surviving elsewhere. One example is Osedax, which uses its root system to penetrate the whale bones when searching for food. Other species specialise in eating the thick layers of bacteria that quickly form around the bones.

Nine new species

A dissertation from the Department of Zoology at the University of Gothenburg describes no fewer than nine previously unknown species of these bacteria-grazing bristleworms.

Cryptic species

Four of the new species were found on whale cadavers placed at a depth of 125 metres in the new national park Kosterhavet off the coast of Strφmstad, Sweden. The other five species feed on whale bones in the deep waters off the coast of California, USA. The family tree of bristleworms was explored using molecular data. The DNA analyses show that there are several so-called cryptic bristleworm species, meaning species that despite looking identical differ very much genetically.

The analyses show that the adaptation to a life on whale cadavers has occurred in species from different evolutionary paths and at several points in time. The study also shows that some species that are assumed to inhabit many different areas globally, so-called cosmopolitan species, may in fact be cryptic species. This finding may be very significant for our understanding of how animals spread around the world and of how many different species dwell on our planet.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Gothenburg. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Gothenburg. "New Species Discovered On Whale Skeletons." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921091601.htm>.
University of Gothenburg. (2009, September 21). New Species Discovered On Whale Skeletons. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 22, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921091601.htm
University of Gothenburg. "New Species Discovered On Whale Skeletons." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090921091601.htm (accessed December 22, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Monday, December 22, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Christmas Kissing Good for Health

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Scientists in Amsterdam say couples transfer tens of millions of microbes when they kiss, encouraging healthy exposure to bacteria. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Brain-Dwelling Tapeworm Reveals Genetic Secrets

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 22, 2014) — Cambridge scientists have unravelled the genetic code of a rare tapeworm that lived inside a patient's brain for at least four year. Researchers hope it will present new opportunities to diagnose and treat this invasive parasite. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

New Fish Species Discovered, Setting Record for World's Deepest

Buzz60 (Dec. 22, 2014) — A new species of fish is discovered living five miles beneath the ocean surface, making it the deepest living fish on earth. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Earthworms Provide Cancer-Fighting Bacteria

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Dec. 21, 2014) — Polish scientists isolate bacteria from earthworm intestines which they say may be used in antibiotics and cancer treatments. Suzannah Butcher reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins