Something is lurking beneath the waves in the Gulf of Mexico that is big enough to eat an alligator whole. And scientists don’t know what it is.
Most of the Earth’s surface is water. And most of that ocean floor is as much a mystery to us as what’s below the surface of Pluto. We haven’t explored much of it, so scientists only have their best guess for what lies beneath the waves. For example, one of our most basic understandings of biology is the food chain. But in the ocean, that understanding breaks down. We don’t have a firm grasp on the food web there, and what we think we know is always evolving.
That’s why two Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium scientists sank three alligator carcasses 2 kilometers to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico in a recent experiment. It didn’t take long to realize there was something down there they didn’t expect.
The first alligator was devoured in less than a day. Giant isopods and some other scavengers of the sea ripped it apart and ate it from the inside out. Scientists expected that. Though, it all happened a lot faster than they thought.
They left the second carcass on the ocean floor for longer. It stayed submerged for 51 days before scientists fished it out and found that something had picked the body clean.
“That one genuinely surprised us. There was not even a single scale or scute left on the carcass,” one of the scientists Craig McClain told Atlas Obscura in 2019.
After some investigation, they realized the culprit was an undiscovered type of bone worm.
But the third alligator was gone. Something gigantic snatched it and dragged it away.
What Ate The Third Alligator?
Put short, we don’t know what took that alligator. But whatever it was, it was huge. When researchers examined the site where they dropped the carcass, there was a depression in the sand. But nothing else. The alligator was gone.
Alligators are big, apex predators. Some are big enough to eat humans. But something down there was bigger. The researchers guess that the most likely candidate is a giant squid or massive shark. But we’ve never seen one of those large enough to be able to pick several hundred pounds of gator meat off the ocean floor and carry it away. So, it’s likely a new species.
“I have yet to find a squid that could consume a whole alligator, and I don’t want to be on the ship if we ever discover it,” McClain said, according to News18.
But the scientists want to try again to see if they can capture whatever is down there. They plan on repeating the experiment soon, this time using the body of a whale as bait.