Scientists dropped an alligator carcass onto the ocean floor for a “first-ever” experimental reptile fall. The eerie footage shows football-sized crustaceans feeding on the carcass.
First-Ever Reptile Fall
Researchers from Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON) conducted a first-ever reptile fall experiment last February in hopes of having a glimpse of what happened to the prehistoric creatures when they fell onto the ocean floor.
To do this, the researchers dropped three alligator carcasses in three different locations with varying depths on the Gulf of Mexico and captured on film what would happen. Interestingly, the researchers expected the “deep sea vultures” to take about three days to find the carcass, but they found it in just 18 hours.
In the eerie footage that they captured, massive, pink isopods the size of a football can be seen feeding on the alligator carcass so quickly that researchers described the massive crustaceans as “stupefied” or “immobile” after they ate so much.
Deep Sea Vultures
In the past, the fossilized remains of Ichthyosaurs have evidence that mollusks and bone worms lived on the carcasses. According to researchers, having a look at what will eat the alligator carcasses will give us a glimpse of what ate the dinosaurs in the past. In fact, it is possible that the ancestors of some of the creatures that they will find devouring the alligators were the ones that devoured the ancient reptiles as well.
In the case of the alligator, researchers say that it was a perfect stand-in for ancient reptiles, especially since the creatures first sprang up 200 million years ago and have not changed much in 8 million years.
Apart from possibly learning about ancient food webs through this experiment, researchers also hope to understand deep sea food webs better and to see how materials on land affect ocean food webs.
The researchers are planning a revisit the alligators in a research cruise this April.