She and Gusmo named A. pearseae after Vicki Pearse, the naturalist who first collected the specimens during a cruise of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute's research vessel the Western Flyer. Pearse is a research associate at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of Santa Cruz.
It's customary to name a newly discovered plant or animal species after the person who found it, or after the place where it was discovered.
Collecting deep-sea creatures is a tedious process that involves a lot of high-tech equipment like underwater video cameras attached to remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). Deep sea ROVs are also equipped with robotic arms and suction devices that are used to collect species.
"It's like a submarine that's manned from the surface," said Daly, who plans to head to Monterey Canyon later this year in hopes of finding more dead whales with A. pearseae roosting on the bones. A successful trip could answer some of Daly's lingering questions about the species itself and, more broadly, may provide clues on how human activities affect this unique, seemingly removed ecosystem.
"The thing about these communities is that they seem so ephemeral and so unplanned," Daly said. "A whale dies where it dies, and its carcass lands wherever. But these are actually some of the most stable deep sea communities.
"A better understanding of deep-sea populations may shed light on how humans drive ecological change, whether it's through whaling or global climate change," she said, and also pointed out that there are now far fewer major whale migrations along the California coast.
While the flesh of a dead whale decomposes within weeks, the bones can last anywhere from 60 to 100 years.
"As that happens, the bacteria that break down the bones release sulfur," Daly said. "A whole community of aquatic creatures uses that sulfur to make energy, much like
Contact: Meg Daly
Ohio State University