Questions for “Whales get a second life as deep-sea buffets”

an aerial photo looking down at a blue whale surfacing

Blue whales are the largest animals known to have ever lived on Earth and can grow to more than 30 meters (100 feet) in length. When they die and sink, their bodies can provide a feast to smaller organisms.


To accompany feature “Whales get a second life as deep-sea buffets


Before Reading:

1. What happens to wild animals after they die? How are they important to ecosystems?

2. Where do you think creatures in the deepest parts of the ocean find food?

During Reading:

1.  What was the Hercules’ mission? What did it discover?

2.  What is a whale fall?

3.  Why are whale falls exciting to marine biologists?

4.  What kinds of animals are the first to arrive at a whale carcass? What part of the animal do they eat?

5.  How did Osedax worms get their name? How do they get their food?

6.  What two things were notable about the Osedax worms that River Dixon’s team spotted on their alligator fall?

7.  According to the story, why are food webs in the deep sea so different from food webs on land or near the ocean surface? What role do whale falls play?

8.  When was the first whale fall discovered? How?

9.  What have scientists learned by sinking whales in different depths of water?

10. How may human activities have affected whale falls, and thus deep-sea ecosystems?

After Reading:

1.  According to the story, scientists do not know if Osedax worms live anywhere other than animal falls. Come up with two ideas about what might happen to the worms when a fall is gone. Describe a way to test one of your ideas.

2.  Some scientists have tried sinking animal carcasses on purpose to study the ecosystem that develops around animal falls. Imagine a team wanted to sink a large land animal, such as a cow. Do you think this would be a good idea? Why or why not? Use evidence from the story to support your answer.