Deep sea coral reef found off Tasmania

by Owen James

A deep water coral reef discovered off the coast of Tasmania is yielding up a wonderfully bizarre bounty of novel new creatures. But the sad news is that even as the reef is explored by scientists, they are already concluding it is dying.

According to reports on the deep sea reef, some of the strange creatures discovered include:

  • A 50cm tall carnivorous sea squirt, which captures prey in its funnel in a similar way to a Venus fly trap
  • A sponge with a ‘waffle-like’ appearance
  • Millions of round, purple-spotted sea anemones
  • 10,000 year-old corals

The reef is a kilometer beneath the surface of the water, but it is showing signs of man-made stress and disease:

Scientists who took part in the US$2 million four-week expedition found that most reef-forming coral deeper than 4,200 feet (1,300 meters) in the area were newly dead. Researchers will study samples of the coral to try and determine whether the creatures are dying because of ocean warming, disease, a rise in ocean acidity or some other reason.

“Mathematical models predict that we could be seeing impacts of ocean acidification in this region,” one of the expedition’s chief scientists, Ron Thresher of Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

If acidification is proven to be the cause of the deep water reef system’s demise, scientists suspect the same process will damage shallower portions of the deep reefs over the next 50 years.

Check out Katy's Tropical Fish Guide for more aquarium info.

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