Researchers surveying the ocean floor for the oil and gas industry discovered something much more unusual and rare: a sea creature graveyard. Remotely operated vehicles scanning the seabed off the coast of Angola captured rare footage of several large deceased animals that have become home to a new ecosystem for scavengers and other marine creatures. The findings from the research were reported in the Plos One journal.
The graveyard included a whale shark and three mobulid rays. It covers one square half mile of the sea floor and the animals had been deceased for one to two months when found. There weren't any aquatic mourners, but "there were lots of these fish sitting around the carcasses - they seemed to be guarding it."
It's an unusual find because little is known about "the fate of vertebrate...below 600 feet." Dr. Nick Higgs, from the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute, explained that "There's been lots of research on whale-falls, but we've never really found any of these other large marine animals on the sea bed." The video has allowed scientists to investigate how the animals fall and what impact their deaths have on the ecosystem. This graveyard had different effects on the local ecosystem than that of a whale fall.
Large animal carcasses like this make up four percent of the food source for their environment (which explains why the fish were guarding the bodies so closely.)