We report the results from the first experimental study of the fate of whale and wood remains on the Antarctic seafloor. Using a baited free-vehicle lander design, we show that whale-falls in the Antarctic are heavily infested by at least two new species of bone-eating worm, Osedax antarcticus sp. nov. and Osedax deceptionensis sp. nov. In stark contrast, wood remains are remarkably well preserved with the absence of typical wood-eating fauna such as the xylophagainid bivalves. The combined whale-fall and wood-fall experiment provides support to the hypothesis that the Antarctic circumpolar current is a barrier to the larvae of deep-water species that are broadly distributed in other ocean basins. Since humans first started exploring the Antarctic, wood has been deposited on the seafloor in the form of shipwrecks and waste; our data suggest that this anthropogenic wood may be exceptionally well preserved. Alongside the new species descriptions, we conducted a comprehensive phylogenetic analyses of Osedax, suggesting the clade is most closely related to the frenulate tubeworms, not the vestimentiferans as previous reported.
- Received May 31, 2013.
- Accepted July 18, 2013.
© 2013 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original author and source are credited.