First-ever deep-sea alligator food fall

First-ever deep-sea alligator food fall

This is an alligator sitting on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico right now over 1 mile deep. It’s being eaten by giant deep-sea isopods. Studying this alligator is helping us learn more about the invertebrates of ancient oceans and how carbon from land makes it into the deep ocean. The alligators in this study were donated to science by the state of Louisiana. They were humanely euthanized as part
of an intense management program that has helped the American alligator bounce
back from nearly going extinct. Most of the earth is covered by oceans so deep that no sunlight reaches them. These places are dark and cold
but full of life. The deep ocean is a food desert
sprinkled with food oases. Some of these oases are vents in the ocean floor where chemicals come out
or food falling from the ocean’s surface. Most food fall research so far has focused on marine mammals like whales and sea lions, large fish like tuna, sometimes sharks and rays, and even wood. Putting an alligator on the seafloor, just like the woodfall work we’ve done, helps us see what happens when rivers transport food to the deep ocean. Alligator falls may be common. Alligator carcasses are regularly found
on beaches and coastlines and after big storms or hurricanes, alligators have been seen alive 18 miles offshore. Alligator falls are also a way for us to peek into the past. Alligators are one of the closest ways
we can study the food falls of long-extinct, large marine reptiles like ichthyosaurs. Indeed, alligators and crocodile food falls may be the last remaining refuge of specialized invertebrates that were also in ancient oceans. This alligator is tens of miles off the coast of Louisiana and a mile and a quarter down on the seafloor. After 24 hours at the bottom
it looked like this. These animals are giant deep-sea isopods. They’re related to the roly polies or pill bugs we have on land but they’re about as big as a football. They’re scavengers who eat dead animals. This footage was taken less than 24 hours after the alligator was placed on the seafloor. I was surprised that there was already
giant isopods all over it. I thought it would take a while for them to get the chemical cues that would allow them to sort of locate a food fall like an alligator. I was also impressed at the work
that they were able to do. I thought that the alligator hide would be something hard for them to get through but obviously their pinching and crushing mandibles made easy work of the hide. You can see where the hide has actually been ripped away and the ribs are exposed. There’s actually 2 inside there. They’re hard to see, but 2 of them have just started going at the alligator from the interior of the body cavity. So it’s actually interesting and quite
funny to see that giant isopod do a nosedive into the bottom because we’ve
seen that in other scavengers, where they’ll eat so much that they basically become immobile or stupefied in their actions, and so that may just be the fact that they’ve gorged themselves so much in an effort to get this rare resource
that they’ve actually, you know, inhibited themselves from from proper locomotion. And this is the whole strategy of a giant isopod. We think that one of the reasons
why they’re so giant compared to the roly polies or pill bugs that we know of is that
a lot of the interior of a giant isopod is just lipid and fat, so
they have this amazing ability to gorge themselves, store that energy, and then basically not have another meal for months to years afterwards. Giant isopods that have been kept in aquaria including the Okinawa aquarium have not fed for over 2 years. When we return two months after
this video is made, I suspect we’ll see about half the animal-
the alligator carcass removed. I think it’ll be interesting to see what new scavengers show up within the 2 months that we’ve been there, if any. Don’t you think maybe, there might be some brittle stars or some other… Brittle stars in the sediments around,
rattails, we’ll probably see some more scavenging fish, maybe amphipods… Yeah, as the flesh gets harder to get by the large guys, that will probably open up the room for smaller animals to get in there and just kind of, go at it, bit by bit. And we’re hoping when we return, one of
those ribs or another bone will be easily collected by- can be easily
collected by the remote operated vehicle so that we can see if there’s hints of
bone-eating worms or Osedax on this. Osedax have never been described from the Gulf of Mexico and obviously never from an alligator fall since this is the first one, and so we may be discovering a new species of bone-eating worm
from these experiments.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes


  1. I love how the first thing that you see is that the organisms are those of which survived through extinction periods and similarly the isopods are almost the perfect example of this and how they would be the ones eating that just saying in a way it makes the most sense because they were probably at one point both alive as different evolution types at the same time a long time ago.

  2. Meanwhile in Japan and Korea they eat everything from the sea. Giant sea pillbugs? You mean new Sushi?

  3. Alligator: *falls to the bottom of the ocean *
    Isopods getting a free meal: Ah shit, here we go again

  4. I can't believe I ate the whole thing! Roly-polies? Awww, ain't they just so cu-ute… Frick, man, I hope I dream about butterflies or something 2-nite…(?)

  5. I love how humans justify the death of one to save thousands I don't see the point humans just hunt and kill the ones that they save for fun to be honest I think we were wrongly named we aren't homosapiens we're demons hunting and torturing every living thing even each other.

  6. great video 🙂 love what you are doing. Come see my page and tell me what you think of my recipes

  7. Why not relocate the alligator instead of murdering it?🙄 or just quit fucking their environment in the first place

  8. Apa gue doang disini yang penasaran ke channel yuotube ini gara gara lihat postingan instagram indozone? 😂

  9. son unos hijoss d susss sputaaa mare… xq no se amarran y hacen sus putos experimentosss con ustedes mismos

  10. They should throw a human body down there.  In fact, the scientist who is in charge of this should be  made to throw  one of his own family members down there. That would be just.  "But we are eggheads and we are doing this to study it"…. like that justifies  inflicting horrors on other creatures

  11. They had it for a day and chewed into the ribs, but you give the carcass 2 months to be done in half?

  12. @ 2:24 of course, if you play some lo-fi chilling chinese buffet music, those creatures will know where the food is lol

  13. Why would people dislike this? Its fascinating, I dont understand how someone could dislike something so cool

  14. Wait, the alligators were euthanized ada part of a program to prevent them from going extinct? Am I missing something? Have I misunderstood the definition of counterproductive all these years?

  15. The background music is making me think Asra is about to jump in and collect some isopods for his magic shop.

  16. Can't they start putting planks under the carcass so the view doesn't get impaired.
    That would make their job easiyer, just serve it on a plate.

  17. Yeah killing a healthy living being that would probably prefer to be alive if it could comprehend it's choice is not humane.

  18. You mentioned in the video that you would be returning in two months, will that footage also we released? It has been 4 months since this was posted and I am super curious!

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