The first recorded abyssal whale fall was discovered by US Navy bathyscaphe pilots LT Ken Hanson, Master Chief George Ellis and LT Tom Vetter diving in bathyscaphe Trieste II (DSV-1) on 19 February 1977 (at ).
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The amount of carbon tied up in a typical single whale carcass (about two metric tons of carbon for a typical forty-ton carcass) is roughly equivalent to the amount of carbon exported to a hectare of abyssal ocean floor in 100–200 years.
This amount of organic material reaching the seafloor at one time creates a pulse equivalent to about 2000 years of background carbon flux in the 50 square metres of sediment immediately beneath the whale fall.
The size limitations, as well as physiological differences between large elasmobranchs and whales more than likely causes the changes observed in the communities surrounding their respective carcasses.
Various studies on smaller cetaceans and other marine vertebrate food falls come to similar conclusions that these falls bring a large amount of new organic material to depth, but support mostly a scavenger community, as opposed to the diverse assemblage seen at whale falls.
A higher abundance of scavengers was found surrounding the more intact individuals, including scavengers typical of whale falls like hagfish.