Stewart, Melissa

Whale Fall: Exploring an Ocean-Floor Ecosystem

(2) K-3 Illustrated by Rob Dunlavey. When a whale dies, its body sinks to the ocean floor, and the end of its life marks the beginning of an entire new ecosystem composed of bottom-dwelling species. Stewart's restrained text steps through each phase in decomposition, noting how the whale's tissue serves as food for waves of scavengers and, over the course of several decades, allows a thriving ecosystem to develop. The featured species have quite elaborate names: hagfish and sleeper sharks arrive first, followed by roughscale rattails, snubnose eelpouts, and grooved tanner crabs, and then such "mini-munchers" as amphipods, Oregon hair crabs, hooded shrimp, and sea pigs. When only bones remain, zombie worms, and finally bacteria, complete their dissolution. Other equally interestingly named species feast on the scavengers, forming the chains and webs of organism relationships. Dunlavey's striking waterscapes gently portray death and the new life that flourishes in its aftermath, with inset close-ups that highlight the anatomical details of the smallest of the ocean creatures. End notes provide facts and figures about the animals and a list of resources to learn more about ocean environments.


Get connected. Join our global community of more than 200,000 librarians and educators.

This coverage is free for all visitors. Your support makes this possible.

We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing.