Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

New species discovered on whale skeletons

18.09.2009
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 use DNA technology to show that the species diversity in our oceans may be higher than previously thought.

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 Strömstad, 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.

Significant findings

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.

The dissertation Evolution of annelid diversity at whale-falls and other marine ephemeral habitats will be publicly defended on 25 September.

Contact:Helena Wiklund, Department of Zoology, University of Gothenburg

This thesis is supported by the following papers:
I. Dahlgren TG, Wiklund H, Källström B, Lundälv T, Smith CR,
Glover AG. 2006. A shallow-water whale-fall experiment in the north
Atlantic. Les Cahiers de Biologie Marine 47(4): 385-389.
II. Wiklund H, Glover AG, Johannessen PJ, Dahlgren TG. 2009.
Cryptic speciation at organic-rich marine habitats: a new bacteriovore
annelid from whale-fall and fish farms in the North East Atlantic.
Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 155: 774-785.
III. Wiklund H, Glover AG, Dahlgren TG. In press. Three new
species of Ophryotrocha (Annelida: Dorvilleidae) from a whale-fall in
the North East Atlantic. Zootaxa.
IV. Wiklund H, Altamira I, Glover AG, Smith CR, Baco-Taylor A,
Dahlgren TG. Manuscript. Five new species of Ophryotrocha
(Annelida: Dorvilleidae) from whale-fall and sunken wood habitats
off California.

Helena Aaberg | idw
Further information:
http://hdl.handle.net/2077/20788
http://www.science.gu.se/english/News/News_detail/New_species_discovered_on_whale_skeletons.cid891818

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht What the world's tiniest 'monster truck' reveals
23.08.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Treating arthritis with algae
23.08.2017 | Empa - Eidgenössische Materialprüfungs- und Forschungsanstalt

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

ShAPEing the future of magnesium car parts

23.08.2017 | Automotive Engineering

New insights into the world of trypanosomes

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

New Test for Rare Immunodeficiency

23.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>