Monday, December 7, 2009

Whale Fall

In the past few decades we have learned about the teeming ecosystem that engulfs every whale carcass falling to the bottom of the sea. The decomposition starts with hagfish and other large scavengers like deep sea crabs, then continues with star fish, tiny crabs, fish, and shrimp, and a variety of worms. Once the flesh is gone, an entirely different set of organisms eats the bones -- we are naming new species of bone-eating worms as fast as scientists can meet to agree on the new names. Other animals, like mussels, feed on the bacteria that thrive around the carcass. This teeming community can include more than 200 species of macroscopic animals and the feeding sometimes goes on for more than 50 years.

Life wastes nothing, misses nothing. Like a storm that forces wind through every crack, a fire that consumes every bit of fuel, it it pushes ever on, consuming and creating, marvelous in its variety, specatcular in its inventiveness, relentless in its thirst for infinity.

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