Whale fall chemosymbiotic communities in a southwest Australian submarine canyon fill a distributional gap

Marco Taviani, Paolo Montagna, Andrew M. Hosie, Giorgio Castellan, Catherine Kemper, Federica Foglini, Malcom McCulloch, Julie Trotter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A whale fall community of chemosymbiotic invertebrates living on cetacean bones has been identified off southwestern Australia during a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) survey at bathyal depths within the Bremer Marine Park, which is part of important marine mammal areas (IMMA) of the Albany Canyon Region. Cetacean bones on the seafloor of the Hood Canyon, consisted of isolated skulls of three species of beaked whales (family Ziphiidae): Mesoplodon cf. layardii, M. grayi, and M. hectori, a few vertebrae, and lower jaws. One of the beaked whale skulls (Mesoplodon cf. layardii) was sampled and found to be intensely colonised by hundreds of specimens of a bathymodilinae mussel (“Adipicola” s.l.). Live polychaetes (Phyllochaetopterus?), skeneimorph gastropods, and amphipods (Seba, Leptamphopus) colonised the skull bone, which represent a later stage (sulfophilic) of carcass decomposition. The reducing sediment below the skull was inhabited by lucinid (Lucinoma) and vesicomyid (Calyptogena) chemosymbiotic bivalves. Additionally, the sediment thanatocoenosis comprised shells of various other chemosymbiotic bivalves, such as Acharax, thyasirids, lucinids, vesicomyids, and limpets, representing the complex ecological turnover phases through time in this whale fall chemosynthetic habitat. With one exception, all bones recovered were colonized by bathymodiolin mussels. This is the first documented case of a chemosynthetic community and associated chemosymbiotic fauna relating to beaked whales, and the first fully documented record of a whale fall community within the Australian Southern Ocean region.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere29206
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2024


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