Researchers Discover a Never-Before-Seen 'Lost World' of Deep Sea Volcanos
The ocean is a puzzle that scientists are still working overtime to solve, and one piece of that puzzle has just been snapped into place. Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) recently mapped an interesting piece off the eastern coast of Australia that has never been seen-a large underwater chain of volcanic seamounts that rise nearly two miles above the ocean floor. Believed to have been formed 30 million years ago, the nutrient-rich area may be new to humans, but animals seem to know it well.
The hidden seamounts were discovered during a 25-day seafloor mapping voyage aboard the Investigator research vessel, led by Australian National University scientists. "Our multibeam mapping has revealed in vibrant detail, for the first time, a chain of volcanic seamounts rising up from an abyssal plain about 5,000 metres (16,400 ft) deep," said Dr. Tara Martin of CSIRO. "We're pretty sure that these seamounts were related to the break up of Australia and Antarctica. It was about 30 million years ago...So as Australia and Antarctica and Tasmania all broke up, a big hotspot came in under the earth's crust, made these volcanoes and then helped the earth's crust break so that all of those areas could start to drift apart."
In the waters around and above the seamounts, researchers recorded an increase in the plankton population and saw an estimated 28 humpback whales one day, 60-80 long-finned pilot whales the following day, and various species of seabirds. "Clearly, these seamounts are a biological hotspot that supports life, both directly on them, as well as in the ocean above," said Dr. Eric Woehler, the convener for the group BirdLife Tasmania. He added that the seamounts may act as a "important signpost" for migratory whales, showing them the way to warmer waters and larger feasts. "Lucky for us and our research, we parked right on top of this highway of marine life!"