MEPS - Vol. 382 - Feature article

Skeleton of a whale on the deep-sea floor, covered by chemoautotrophic bacterial mats. Photo: C.R. Smith

Treude T, Smith CR, Wenzhöfer F, Carney E, Bernardino AF, Hannides AK, Krüger M, Boetius A

 

Biogeochemistry of a deep-sea whale fall: sulfate reduction, sulfide efflux and methanogenesis

 

Sunken whale carcasses develop into rich chemosynthetic ecosystems on the deep-sea floor, due to microbial degradation of the whale biomass. Hydrogen sulphide and methane are formed as degradation end-products and serve as energy-rich fuel for chemoautotrophic life. Treude and colleagues applied a variety of techniques to study biogeochemical processes at a whale fall in its sulfogenic stage, located at 1700 m depth. They present for the first time an estimate of sulphide and methane fluxes from a whale fall biotope.

 

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