Whales are some of the largest animals on Earth, so it’s no surprise that their bodies are pretty big too. When a whale dies, its body begins to decompose almost immediately. In this blog post, we will take a closer look at what happens to whale bodies when they die and the science of decomposition.
The Stages of Decomposition: Whale Edition
The first stage of decomposition is autolysis, or self-digestion. This is when the whale’s body starts to break down its own tissues and organs. During this stage, the body will release enzymes that break down cell walls and proteins. The internal organs will start to liquefy and the skin will begin to peel away from the muscle tissue.
The second stage of decomposition is bacterial putrefaction. This is when bacteria that are already present in the whale’s body or that enter the body after death begin to break down tissues and organs. This process can produce a foul smell as the bacteria release gasses like methane and hydrogen sulfide.
The third and final stage of decomposition is skeletonization. This is when the remaining tissues and organs have decomposed and only the bones are left. The process of skeletonization can take years to complete, but it eventually leaves behind a whale’s bone structure.
The process of decomposition can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few years, depending on the environment in which the whale dies. If the whale dies in cold water, it will take longer for decomposition to occur. If the whale dies in warm water, decomposition will occur more quickly.
So, what happens to whale bodies when they die? They decompose! And the science of decomposition is pretty fascinating. If you’re interested in learning more about it, we encourage you to do some further reading on the topic. Until next time, happy… decaying? Either way, have a great day!