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The Great Barrier Reef Has Been Hiding Massive Donut-Shaped Reef For Years

Aug 30, 2016 04:36 AM EDT
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Scientists have recently discovered a massive reef hiding behind the famous Great Barrier Reef on Australia.

According to the study published in Journal Coral Reef, a group of scientists from James Cook University, University of Sydney and Queensland University of Technology was examining the high-resolution seafloor data provided by the Royal Australian Navy when they noticed the unusual donut-shaped masses.

The map was captured using LiDAR-equipped aircraft. LiDAR, as defined by Science Alert, stands for Light Detection and Ranging. It is a surveying technology that uses lasers instead of radio waves to measure the distance of formations.

As explained by the researchers, these masses are called the Halimeda bioherms. When Halimeda, a genus of green macroalgae, dies, it forms mounds called bioherms. Researchers have long known that Halimeda bioherms exist on the shelf of the Great Barrier Reef, but no one have thought that the reef is as enormous as the recent study has revealed.

"We've known about these geological structures in the northern Great Barrier Reef since the 1970s and 80s, but never before has the true nature of their shape, size and vast scale been revealed," Dr. Robin Beaman of JCU said in a press release.

"We've now mapped over 6000 square kilometers. That's three times the previously estimated size, spanning from the Torres Strait to just north of Port Douglas. They clearly form a significant inter-reef habitat which covers an area greater than the adjacent coral reefs," Mardi McNeil from Queensland University of Technology and lead author on the new research paper added.

Fox News notes that the mounds can be as deep as 33 feet at their center. This only adds to the fascination of the researchers.

In the past months, the Great Barrier Reef has been dying due to coral bleaching. Ninety-three percent of the reef has already been bleached and the scientists worry that the newly discovered reef may also suffer the same fate.

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