Unusual benthic fauna associated with a whale fall in Monterey Canyon, California
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On February 6, 2002, we discovered an unusual assemblage of deep-sea animals associated with a well-preserved carcass of a gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) at 2891m depth in the axis of Monterey Canyon, California. The 9-10m long carcass was found approximately 31km off shore, where it settled to the bottom against the northern wall of the canyon's sedimented floor. This carcass delivered approximately 20,000kg of organic material to a typically food-limited seafloor. Particularly noteworthy were the low occurrence of large mobile scavengers, the large number of opportunistic deep-sea species, and an abundance of unusual polychaetes. Two of these polychaetes, a spionid and a siboglinid, are new to science. Since this discovery, we visited the whale fall on two subsequent occasions (March and October 2002) to document faunal community changes in one of the deepest large food falls known to date. 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.