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Newly Discovered Volcanic ‘Lost World’ Is a Haven For Marine Life

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Gizmodo: Australian scientists have discovered a previously unknown chain of volcanic seamounts near Tasmania. The area appears to be brimming with marine life, including a surprising number of whales who may be using the undersea volcanoes as a navigational tool. The volcanic chain was discovered by scientists from the Australian National University and CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, while on a 25-day mission aboard the research vessel Investigator to conduct detailed seafloor maps of the region. The undersea volcanoes are about 250 miles (400 kilometers) east of Tasmania, and they’re quite deep.

The tallest of the seamounts extends 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) from the seafloor, so they’re not tiny. It’s hard to believe that something so large has gone undetected for so long, but our oceans are notoriously understudied. A mere 20 percent of Earth’s oceans has been explored, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. [T]he seamounts appeared to serve as a kind of mid-ocean oasis for a host of marine organisms. In addition to finding copious amounts of plankton in the area, the researchers observed various seabirds and a surprising number of whales. The volcanic seamounts, the researchers say, are likely important stopping points for migratory animals, particularly whales, who rely on seafloor structures for navigation. The volcanoes are likely serving as important signposts as the whales travel from their winter breeding areas to summer feeding grounds, the researchers say.

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