Scientists have made a discovery of a massive coral reef lying about 160-miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. The discovery was recently announced but the reef itself is far from new. Scientists who discovered the reef say that it could have been lying about half a mile under the surface of the ocean for thousands or even hundreds of thousands of years. The discovery was made by a team aboard a research vessel called Atlantis last week.
The discovery was made with a human operated vehicle called Alvin. The dense, cold-water coral population seeded the bottom of the ocean half a mile under the surface and the site was covered in living corals. Those living corals were growing atop massive skeletal remains of older, dead corals. The team says these older corals likely inhabited the area for millennia.
Alvin was used to explore the reef and collect coral samples on August 23 and August 24. Massive amounts of Lophelia pertusa, a branching whitish coral that likes cold water was found growing. This coral doesn’t rely on symbiotic algae to survive like tropical coral. Rather the coral at the new reef uses stinging tentacles to stun prey and then guide food into its stomach.
Corals that Atlantis discovered were 16 miles to the northwest of corals found this summer by the Okeanos Explorer research vessel. When combined the newly discovered coral reef and the reef found earlier this summer extend for 85 miles. The reef is said to be layered with enormous, rocky piles of dead coral accumulated over thousands of years.
Atlantis was underway on August 19 for a 15-day expedition that is part of a 4.5-year long collaboration project called Deep Sea Exploration and Research of Coral/Canyon/Cold seep Habitats known as Deep SEARCH. Through September 2 the Atlantis will be exploring deep-sea habitats near the southeastern coastal US.
SOURCE: Live Science