SCIENCE
03/20/2013 09:08 am ET

Whale Skeleton Found On Sea Floor In Antarctica, Along With Several New Marine Species (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

Talk about a whale of a find.

In what's being called the first discovery of its type, scientists recently stumbled upon a whale skeleton on the ocean floor near Antarctica -- one of only six natural whale skeletons found worldwide.

That's not all. As the researchers took a closer look at their find, they noticed something else quite remarkable -- at least nine never-before-seen species of deep-sea organisms feeding on the bones and skull.

"Whale skeletons are able to support life on the seafloor, even after a considerable amount of time," study author Diva Amon, a Ph.D. student at the University of Southampton in England, told The Huffington Post.

Whales sink to the ocean floor after their deaths, and then the carcasses, known as "whale fall," become a sort of feeding ground for other marine life.

The researchers said the skeleton they found, believed to be that of a Minke whale and "several decades" old, was unearthed in a crater about a mile beneath the ocean's surface.

In this instance -- as in many "whale fall" discoveries -- the skeleton was uncovered with the help of a remotely operated vehicle (ROV).

"We were at the end of a very long remotely operated vehicle survey with the U.K. ROV Isis and had already gone an hour over our allocated time on the seafloor, when we spotted a row of curious white blocks in the distance," Amon said. "Upon investigation, we realized it was a whale skeleton with lots of deep-sea animals living on and around it."

Those deep-sea organisms, which were confirmed as new discoveries, included a type of bone-eating Osedax worm. The researchers collected three of the whale bones and shipped the specimens to the U.K. for analysis by the British Antarctic Survey and the Natural History Museum.

A paper about the discoveries, "The discovery of a natural whale fall in the Antarctic deep sea," was published in the online journal Deep-Sea Research II: Topical Studies in Oceanography.

Watch two clips of the ROV footage in the video above, and click through the gallery below to see photos of the findings.

First Whale Skeleton Discovered In Antarctica

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