Discovering a whale carcass on the ocean floor is a rare occurrence, but so-called "whale falls" provide a bonanza to deep sea denizens. The flesh decomposes relatively quickly, but the bones can last for up to a century, sustaining a bizarre menagerie of life from bacteria to zombie worms.
The Antarctic whale fall has likely been in its resting place for several decades. The 35 foot long skeleton was that of a southern Minke whale, and it is home to newly identified species of sea snails, worms, and a new species of isopod, a relative of common wood lice. Also among the bones was a new species of zombie worm. Whale falls act as islands of life on the deep sea floor.
It is still unclear how the various invertebrates that make their home among the dead bones spread from skeleton to skeleton, or just how common these deep sea havens of live are on the ocean floor.