Nov 29 2012

Burial at sea

Watch what happens to a dead pig at the bottom of the ocean. Most of the action involves sea lice, but there is a special guest appearance by a fan favorite at the end.


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  1. 1
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao

    So I get that sea lice eat the flesh, but why do all the shrimp show up at the end for the bones? Or are they eating the sea lice?

  2. 2
    chigau (違う)

    Why am I thinking about Dexter?

  3. 3

    Closely related topic to dead pigs:

    PZ’s nemesis is the topic of virtual evolution:


  4. 4

    Full fathom five thy piggy lies…

  5. 5
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I watch something like that and am even more amazed that any fossils survive to be found. Especially from the Palaeozoic or Precambrian.

  6. 6
    Gvlgeologist, FCD

    I guess the sea lice aren’t kosher!

    @Katherine Lorraine, Chaton de la Mort: according to the text in the article, the shrimp eat the cartilage.

    I love it when posts here are directly useful to me in the class I’m giving – today! Thanks, PZ!

  7. 7
    Kevin, Youhao Huo Mao


    Ah, okay, that makes sense then.

  8. 8
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    Sea lice, shrimp… who cares!? What is Professor Poopyhead doin’ there???

  9. 9

    As always everything comes down to Cthulhu at the end.

  10. 10
    Glen Davidson

    Watch what happens to a dead pig at the bottom of the ocean.

    Or anyway, what happens to a dead pig at the bottom of the ocean when it’s protected from being eaten by large scavengers and/or predators, like that shark.

    One wonders if (probably) unfamiliar food like that could, raw as it is, pose a disease threat underwater organisms. Trichinosis? Then again, oceans seem to harbor horrific loads of pathogens (and carcasses plus feces have always flowed from land to ocean), especially viruses, so maybe they can take just about anything.

    Glen Davidson

  11. 11

    I was wondering what the octopus came for, if the pig had been reduced to bones, but then realized it was probably hunting for shrimp.

  12. 12

    So, you think that a burial at sea is a romantic end to your life, eh?

  13. 13

    @11 Nothing can stop an octopus once it knows a camera is pointed at it.

  14. 14
    Kevin Anthoney

    Most of the action involves sea lice, but there is a special guest appearance by a fan favorite at the end.

    There’s something more of a fan favourite than sea lice? What’s a cat doing down there?

  15. 15
    Eric O

    Gail Anderson, the forensic entomologist behind this project, was a guest lecturer for my forensic anthropology class back in undergrad. I was very impressed by her work.

  16. 16

    That video was taken near where I live. There is an area north of here, near Queen Charlotte Islands aka Haida Gwaii, that commercial commercial fishers describe as having a “hot bottom”.
    The sea lice are so thick and active there that a 50 lb. halibut can be stripped to a skeleton in a few hours.
    Those interested in oceanography, marine biology, or even just more cool videos taken at the bottom of the deep ocean may want to check out not only the VENUS site that created this piece but also its’ sister project NEPTUNE.

  17. 17

    *Waves to abear*

    I think I can see your house from here!

    (I’m in CR, mid-Vancouver Island.)

  18. 18

    *Waves back to Nitric Acid from about 30 miles to the south*

  19. 19
    Anthony K

    Dead pig dissolving, and dead pig removing.
    There’s a dead pig at the bottom of the ocean.
    Remove the dead pig, carry the dead pig.
    Remove the dead pig from the bottom of the ocean.

  20. 20

    *Tries to figure out what the heck that is in real units*

  21. 21

    So…one of them towns that starts with C…

  22. 22
    Anthony K

    My bet’s on Courtenay.

  23. 23

    Courtenay, Comox, Cumberland…they’re all kinda lumped together.

  24. 24

    IIRC, that experiement was conducted very near me, in Saanich Inlet. That octopus was probably a giant Pacific octopus.

    The letter “C” toponym you guys are wracking your brains over is likely COWICHAN. You can see Cowichan Bay just NNW of the mouth of the inlet, also the Cowichan River flowing through the little city of Duncan, BC.

  25. 25
    Crudely Wrott

    Too bad that the camera seemed to autofoucus on the mesh containment early in the video. What happens to the corpse is thereby hidden and left to the viewer’s imagination. Which imagination is no doubt influenced by bad horror movies. It gives the impression that the sequence involves amateur FX.

    Still and all, the point is well taken. Nothing goes to waste in the realm of hungry critters. Those who dwell down deep, under the waters. Near to the lair of he who will awake with even greater apatite.

    The final scene, though, is killer. All hail tentacules!!

    /ritual nod to Poopyhead and his far reaching tentacules, even if they are shorter than you-know-who’s/

  26. 26
    Alex the Pretty Good

    Now that’s an effective clean-up crew.

    Can people sign up for that as well? Much more effective than being put in the ground in a nearly airtight coffin (or worse, in the nearly abiotic clay that abounds here in the Low Countries) or being reduced to a little ash and lots of gasses.

    This way it’s “back in the food-chain you go”. No fuss … no crazy costs … no wasted land … only good things.

  27. 27

    RFW: Was this taken from the Saanich site or one of the nodes near the mouth of the Fraser? Either way Cowichan Bay is closer than me (Comox) or another C, NI in Campbell River.
    Maybe this phenomena explains why so many running shoes with some remains left in them have floated up in the South Georgia Strait?
    Drowning victims tend to sink and aren’t buoyant for a few days until gases from decomposition float the victim. Here they are likely to be consumed before the gut bacteria work, especially if the water is cold and deep.

  28. 28

    There’s a pig at the bottom of the sea,
    There’s a pig at the bottom of the sea,
    There’s a pig, there’s a pig,
    There’s a pig, there’s a pig,
    There’s a pig at the bottom of the…

    Oh wait, no there isn’t.

    – Brought to you straight from Camp Mowana

  29. 29
    blogofmyself, writer of papers

    (with apologies to T.S. Eliot)

    Piggy the Pignician, a fortnight dead,
    Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep sea swell
    And the troughs and slop. Some creatures under sea
    Picked his bones in whispers. As he laid quite still,
    He passed the stages of his decomposition
    Entering the food chain. Atheist or skeptic
    O you who read the blog and look to comments,
    Consider Piggy, who was once handsome and alive as you.

  30. 30
    Dhorvath, OM

    So many islanders, I just need to leap in and say I am in Colwood. Another C, hah!

  31. 31

    Dead pig dissolving, and dead pig removing.
    There’s a dead pig at the bottom of the ocean.
    Remove the dead pig, carry the dead pig.
    Remove the dead pig from the bottom of the ocean.

    there is bacon at the bottom of the ocean.

  32. 32

    same as it ever was.

  33. 33
    Dhorvath, OM

    Into the blue again

  34. 34

    This was from the node in Georgia Strait, near the mouth of the Fraser. Discovery Channel did a piece on this experiment recently:

  35. 35

    That was Gail Anderson? Woo hoo! Good to hear she’s still out there. I participated in one of her seminars as part of police Ident unit training, and one of her old students was my supervisor for my bachelor’s thesis.

    This kind of study was only in the works when I was going to school, and now I have my answer as to whether anyone ended up doing it or not. :)
    (Poor octopus… always late to the party!)

  36. 36

    So two things come into mind immediately…

    1) nature is the most disgusting and amazing thing ever
    2) Dexter did it wrong

  37. 37

    By the way, anyone who is interested in the current pig deployment can view it live at

    You have to register as a VENUS user to view this content, but registration is easy and free (registration is required because tracking site usage is the best way to impress the agencies that fund VENUS).

    The lights come on every 15 minutes and only for a brief period of time so as not to affect the sea life too much.

    The current deployment is in Saanich Inlet, which is extremely anoxic at depth. As a result the pigs are still almost intact after more than 3 months, which is actually pretty creepy.

  38. 38
    Fred Salvador, Onion Jumbler

    Biology is vile.

  39. 39
    John Morales

    Fred Salvador @38, you’ve misspelled ‘live’.

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