2021 Children's Science News - Silver

When whales die and sink to the ocean’s bottom, their bodies can provide a feast to smaller organisms, including living things found nowhere else on Earth. “Think of it as a watery free-for-all,” Stephen Ornes tells his readers. “Hagfish, octopods, squid, sharks, crabs and worms all gather and devour. It’s a rich ecosystem all of its own. In deep water, where relatively few animals live, the feast may last for years.” For marine biologists, Ornes, says, “the body of a dead whale provides an opportunity to study life in one of the least explored places on Earth: the bottom of the ocean.” The feasting critters include sea pigs, “a squishy thing that looks like a living pink balloon, but with tentacles.” With such clear vivid, language, he takes his young readers on an underseas adventure. “This story really captures the imagination and builds out a lovely image of the weirdness of the sea floor,” said Blythe Terell, supervising editor for Gimlet Media. “The videos embedded were absolutely mesmerizing.” Added Christine Dell’Amore, senior editor at National Geographic, “Stephen Ornes’ catchy and engaging writing brought to life the fascinating phenomenon of whalefalls. It clearly and amusingly explained the science around these biological communities.” Ornes said he was hooked on the story because the subject of whale carcasses “is fascinating, weird, and perfect for our young audience” and because of “the enthusiasm of the researchers who study life on the bottom of the ocean. On the footage captured by the undersea rover, you can hear the scientists marvel and gasp and react like kids on Christmas morning.”