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Huge Reef Discovered Hiding Behind Great Barrier Reef

 

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So, do we have to call it the Even Greater Barrier Reef now? In a study published last month in Coral Reefs, researchers announced the discovery of a massive 2,353-square-mile reef just north of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Scientists used LIDAR data from the Australian Navy to create the “most complete, high-resolution spatial mapping” of the area. It revealed a field of massive rings three times larger than what was previously believed to be there, theChristian Science Monitor reports. The rings are known as bioherms. They’re made when algae called Halimeda die and turn into limestone flakes. According to a press release, the bioherms—formed over 10,000 years—can be nearly 1,000 feet across with holes up to 32 feet deep.

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So how did a giant field of huge calcified doughnuts go undiscovered for so long? They’re located deeper underwater than the structures of the Great Barrier Reef, with the tops of the bioherms not starting until 65 to 164 feet below the surface, ABC reports. “It’s not a typical, easily accessible place where scuba divers would be diving,” researcher Mardi McNeil says. Another researcher, Dr. Robin Beaman, says they were “amazed” by the find. Now scientists want to learn what kind of life calls the reef home and study what the bioherms can tell us about the history of the reef and how climate change is impacting it.

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