Lost World Of Volcanoes Discovered Off Tasmanian Coast

Posted: Oct 10 2018, 9:56am CDT | by , Updated: Oct 10 2018, 10:09am CDT, in Latest Science News


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Lost World of Volcanoes Discovered off Tasmanian Coast
Multibeam mapping of seamount chain. Credit: CSIRO

The diverse chain of underwater volcanoes rises up to 3000 meters from the surrounding seafloor.

Scientists aboard research vessel Investigator have discovered a chain of underwater volcanoes rising from the sea floor off the coast of Tasmania.

The ‘lost world’ of volcanic seamounts is situated in Australia’s deep waters where mountains rise up to 3000 meters (9,843 feet) from the seafloor. Researchers came across this previously unknown chain of volcanoes while mapping the seafloor.

“Our multibeam mapping has revealed in vibrant detail, for the first time, a chain of volcanic seamounts rising up from an abyssal plain about 5000m deep. The seamounts vary in size and shape, with some having sharp peaks while others have wide flat plateaus, dotted with small conical hills that would have been formed by ancient volcanic activity,” said Dr Tara Martin from Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) mapping team.

“Having detailed maps of such areas is important to help us better manage and protect these unique marine environments, and provide a stepping stone for future research. This is a very diverse landscape and will undoubtedly be a biological hotspot that supports a dazzling array of marine life.”

Researchers were able to detect volcanoes using ship-based sea-floor mapping technology. Once the research vessel reached 400 kilometers east of Tasmania, the crew observed spikes in phytoplankton activity. To the researchers' surprise, a wide range of marine life was attracted by the seamounts.

“While we were over the chain of seamounts, the ship was visited by large numbers of humpback and long-finned pilot whales. We estimated that at least 28 individual humpback whales visited us on one day, followed by a pod of 60-80 long-finned pilot whales the next,” said Dr Eric Woehler from BirdLife Tasmania, who was part of Investigator’s 28-day expedition to Tasman Sea.

“We also saw large numbers of seabirds in the area including four species of albatross and four species of petrel. Clearly, these seamounts are a biological hotspot that supports life, both directly on them, as well as in the ocean above.”

Researchers suggest that whales may use these seafloor features as navigational tool when they migrate over hundreds of thousands of miles through the oceans.

“These seamounts may act as an important signpost on an underwater migratory highway for the humpback whales we saw moving from their winter breeding to summer feeding grounds.” Dr Woehler said.

Researchers aim to understand more about the origin of these seamounts and evolution of life on it. Therefore, Investigator will return to the region for two further research voyages departing in November and December.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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