Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Teacher Education


There are localized deep-seafloor habitats where there is a much greater input of nutrients than most of the seafloor. These include hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, and sunken whale skeletons called whale-falls. Meiofauna, a taxonomically diverse group of microscopic invertebrates, has been studied in many habitats, though there have been no published studies on meiofauna at whale-falls. The purpose of this study was to test whether the increased energy resources at a whale-fall affected the meiofauna community. To test this hypothesis, I characterized the community of meiofauna living under and around whale-fall at three locations in the Monterey Bay, in terms of biomass (µg carbon per cm2) and diversity. Nematodes were the most abundant organism, although annelids accounted for the greatest share of biomass in some samples due to their larger body size. More meiofaunal organisms were found near the carcass than far from it and the greatest meiofaunal biomass occurred three to seven meters from the carcass. The greater biomass nearer the bones was probably due to nutrient enrichment from the whale. The lesser numbers under the carcass compared with 3 – 7 m away may be due to toxic chemical gradients in the sediment around the bones, grazing by larger organisms living near the bones, or competitive dominance. These findings are a necessary first step towards a thorough understanding of how the meiofauna at whale-falls differ from meiofauna communities in other habitats.


Thesis (M.A.) Teacher Education Department