A mystery predator has scientists scratching their heads after it dragged away an entire alligator corpse more than a mile below the surface of the ocean.
The dead gator, anchored at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico by weights, was one of three research reptiles left on the seafloor by the Louisiana University Marine Consortium.
According to a video from LUMCON, large reptiles like alligators and crocodiles sometimes make their way out into the open water — a trip not all of the animals return from.
The corpse of any big reptile offers a major opportunity for scavengers living at the bottom of the ocean.
Researchers also hoped that the reptile carcasses would attract any specialized scavengers not currently known to science.
The first alligator, left on the ocean floor for less than 24 hours, was found crawling with giant isopods. The pale scavengers made a creepy scene crawling in and out of the dead reptile.
The next gator, dropped a month and a half before the scientists returned, was skeletonized. Scavengers had totally wiped it of any soft tissue. Only a spine and skull remained.
A brand new species of worm, called the “zombie worm,” was discovered on the alligator’s skeleton, proving this experiment to be a major success.
Finally, researchers moved to the last alligator.
There was a problem, however. Eight days after the last gator was dropped, it was nowhere to be seen.
Following a path in the sediment that seemed to come from the reptile’s corpse being dragged, researchers discovered what was left of their experiment: weights that had previously held their alligator down, and a rope that had been bitten clean through.
“To consume an alligator and create this disturbance, the animal must have been of great size,” River Dixon of LUMCON said in a video upload of the discovery.
“We hypothesize that most likely a large shark, like a Greenland shark or a six-gilled shark, consumed this alligator whole.”
Watch a video overview of the scientific experiment, including clips of the three alligators, below.
Unfortunately, there is no clear evidence of what turned the researchers’ alligator experiment into lunch.
One thing is for certain though: Alligators are clearly outmatched on the open sea.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.