CHAUVIN, La. — Scientists placed a dead alligator on the floor of the Gulf of Mexico in February to study the effect on ocean food chains.
The video was posted to YouTube by Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium on April 3 and has been viewed more than 230,000 as of Wednesday, April 10.
Researchers wondered if some species that would eat modern-day alligators “may be new to science and their ancestors may have eaten ancient reptiles,” according to a description on the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium website.
This past November, the state granted a request by Craig McClain, the executive director of LUMCON, and gave his team the bodies of three culled alligators, according to Atlas Obscura.
In February, McClain and his team dropped the carcasses in three sites to see what they might attract.
Dropping a large piece of organic matter to the seafloor is called a fall, a tool researchers use to create a flurry of activity by scavengers that might otherwise be hard to observe.
Within 24 hours, large isopods the size of footballs were seen crawling on the body.
Research assistant Clifton Nunnally said the isopods are like “deep sea vultures” that just wait for something to sink to the floor.
The scientists told Atlas Obscura they were surprised at how quickly the crustaceans found and exploited the eye sockets, armpits and other weak points in the alligator’s tough skin.
The team will continue to visit the three sites, located about 60 miles from each other, as they monitor the progress of the isopods and other scavengers.