Beautiful short film about decomposition of a whale carcass

When an animal as big as a whale dies, its body becomes a whole new ecosystem. One whale carcass can support other forms of life for 50-to-75 years—basically as long as the whale itself lived.

This gorgeous video (I am not kidding. You will not need a unicorn chaser.) illustrates how that cycle works, using paper cutouts and simple puppetry. It's mesmerizing and enlightening.

The video was made for a Radiolab episode about whale falls, and was put together by Sharon Shattuck and Flora Lichtman. Amazing work!

Video Link

Thanks to Ferris Jabr



  1. That’s one of the most beautiful decaying corpses I’ve ever seen.  Not that I’ve… uh… Hey – what’s that over there???!? 

    I just want to know if the “sulphophiles” have to register and put little signs in their yards…

  2. -10 points for failure to use Harry Nilsson’s “Think About Your Troubles” as the soundtrack.  Otherwise, beautiful!

  3. I like this, but I kept expecting Isabella Rossellini to pop up and say, “What does he think I am, a black hagfish?”

  4. There’s something ineffably cool about the idea of an entire ecosystem, or even civilization, springing up in the body of an enormous creature. Futurama has done a couple of episodes along those lines (one in Fry’s body, one in Bender’s), and China Mieville’s New Crobuzon has a district called Bonetown, which features a gargantuan fossilized ribcage–no one knows how they got there, what sort of creature it was, or where the rest of the skeleton is.

  5. I propose all radiolab mentions now be preceded by…”MacArthur genius grant winner Radiolab”.

  6. Was just listening to this one, love radiolab – can really see why Jad Abumrad just won the MacArthur genius award, though not sure why he did over the other guy…

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