An experiment to find out exactly what life forms are in the deep sea came to a surprising result: there is something down there that can eat a whole alligator, and we don’t know what it is.
The depths of the ocean are less well explored than the surface of the moon. To change this, two scientists from the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium took three alligator carcasses and dropped them about a mile deeper to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
“To study the food web deep in the ocean, we placed three dead alligators at least 2,600 feet deep in the Gulf of Mexico for 51 days,” said Clifton Nunnally of Louisiana University.
Why alligators? The researchers said, “We have seen alligators and crocodiles make increased use of marine habitats in recent years … so we decided to conduct this experiment to assess the impact of a large reptile carcass on the deep sea food web and large reptile carcasses as potential investigate carbon path in depth. “
The first alligator was completely gone in less than a day. Underwater scavengers like giant sea slugs devoured it much faster than expected.
The second alligator carcass lasted a little longer. After 51 days, the researchers pulled it up and found that its bones had been plucked completely clean.
“That really surprised us. There wasn’t even a single scale or scale left on the carcass, ”scientist Craig McClain told Atlas Obscura.
Eventually, the researchers found that a new species of bone-eating worm in the Osedax family, previously unknown to science, efficiently removed the alligator’s flesh from the bones.
But it was the third alligator that caused the greatest shock. Something picked up the alligator carcass and carried it away, leaving nothing but a shallow depression in the seabed. The weight they had weighed down the carcass was found about 10 meters away.
McClain guessed it was likely either a very large shark or a giant squid.
But any shark or octopus large enough to prey on an alligator weighing more than half a ton could be a completely new species.
“I haven’t found an octopus that could eat a whole alligator, and I don’t want to be on the ship if we ever spot it,” McClain told News18.