Living Fossils and Rare Corals Revealed: An Exploration of the Deep Coral Sea

2016-06-28T19:24:25+00:00 March 10, 2016|
A swimming feather star (comatulid crinoid) filmed at a depth of 200 metres. (Credit: © MARUM University of Bremen)

(Click to enlarge) A swimming feather star (comatulid crinoid) filmed at a depth of 200 metres. (Credit: © MARUM University of Bremen)

An investigation of previously unexplored depths of Australia’s Coral Sea has revealed living fossils, rare corals and sponges, and ecosystems that have remained largely unchanged for millions of years.

(From ScienceDaily) — A team of Australian and German researchers has published their analysis of data, specimens, photographs and video footage collected in 2009, when they sent a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to a depth of 800 meters (2,625 ft) at Osprey Reef off the far-northern coast of eastern Australia.

“Osprey Reef is one of most-dived locations in the Coral Sea, but diving only reveals the top thirty meters (100 ft) or so,” said James Cook University’s (JCU) Dr Robin Beaman, whose seabed maps helped guide the expedition.

“The reef sits atop a coral bank that rises almost 1500 meters (almost a mile) from the surrounding Queensland Plateau,” JCU researcher Dr Tom Bridge said. “One of the attractions for divers is the sight of the sheer walls of the outer reef slope, disappearing into the depths, but until this expedition few people knew what was down there.”

The research was conducted by scientists from: James Cook University; Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich; the Natural History Museum, Berlin; Göttingen University; Queensland Museum and the University of Queensland.

The researchers sent the ROV, from the Centre for Marine Environmental Sciences in Bremen, Germany, to a depth of 800 meters (2,625 ft) and then recorded its slow ascent to the surface, recording precise depth information for each finding.

After years of painstaking analysis, the expedition’s results have just been published in the journal Marine Biodiversity.

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