– By Dr. Bharti Raizada
June 17, 2017: A couple of days back, I was walking on the beach, and a question came to my mind: What happens to living beings that die in the ocean? Living beings who live in the ocean and die there, or other beings that die in the ocean (for example if a plane crashes in an ocean, or a ship sinks or a wave takes someone with it, etc). I did some research and found this:
If a living being dies on land and is not burnt or buried, then either scavenger eat the body, or it is decomposed, or it becomes a fossil. Similarly, when a living body dies in the ocean, it is either scavenged, decomposed or becomes a fossil.
At the ocean floor, dead bodies become food for deep-sea animals. First, there is a stage of mobile scavenging in which scavengers eat the body. Then there is an enrichment opportunist stage, in which small organisms live inside remains of the body, and finally, there is the sulpho philic stage, in which hydrogen sulfide emitting bacteria help feed chemotrophic organisms.
If the dead body is quickly covered by sediment and left undisturbed, it becomes a fossil. How fast a body becomes decomposed or scavenged depends on various factors: oxygen level, temperature, depth, light, speed of sinking, etc.
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Some interesting words related to this topic are:
Detritivore is an organism that feeds on dead or decomposing organic matter. Taphonomy is the study of the processes that affect animal and plant remains as they become fossilized. A taphonomist is the person who does this study.
Chemotropism is the orientation of cells or organisms in relation to chemical stimuli.
This is all I have found. Please share your opinion on what you think, or if you have any additional relevant information.