The deep ocean floor can be described as the most unexplored region in the world and for many decades, scientists believed it to be a barren land. However, recent studies painted a very different picture with regard to the dark and cold deep ocean floors, as many weird and outlandish creatures have been recognized to be roaming around. Thus, this article will look into the recent findings with regard to the scavengers of the deep ocean floor including the process of cataloguing the deep-sea creatures.
Because of the deep-sea marine species cataloging process, the scientists were able to identify more than 17,650 species living below depths of 200 meters and around 5700 species living in extreme depths of more than 1000 meters. Among these newly discovered creatures, there were around 40 new species of corals located in deep-sea mountains and cities of brittlestars and anemone gardens. In addition, the creatures discovered varyied from being single cell organisms to large squid living in the abyssal plains and basins. These bottom dwellers live on decaying matter that cascades down, which includes even sunken whalebones. In addition, some of these creatures make use of oil and methane as the preferred energy source.
When discussing the scavengers of the deep ocean floor, the study of whale falls, gives plenty of information. According to studies, the decaying process of whale falls can be classified into three stages. In the initial mobile scavenging stage, creatures such as sleeper sharks, hagfish and rat-tails along with invertebrate scavengers play a major role in removing the soft tissues of the whale fall at a high rate. In the second stage, dense assemblages of opportunistic polychaetes and crustaceans can be recognized as they feed on the organically enriched sediments and exposed bones. In the third stage, sulphur-oxidizing bacteria will colonize and produce sulphide from anaerobic breakdown of bone lipids. During this stage, research studies have revealed that the species diversity is at its highest when comparing any other deep-sea hard substratum community.
However, the scavengers in the deep ocean floor would not only feed on whale falls but would also feed on deep-sea plankton, bottom meiofauna, particulate organic matter, dead animals and bacteria.
Among the deep-sea scavengers, the giant isopods play a big role and are seen in deep and cold waters of Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. Around 20 species of giant isopods have been noted as playing the role of deep-sea scavengers and almost all of them belong to the genus Bathynomus.
Thus, it is apparent that there are thousands of small and large scavengers hovering in the deep ocean floor, which plays an important role in the recycling process of biological material through an efficient scavenging process.