New underwater footage captured in the Gulf of Mexico by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer has revealed that a dense coral garden that scientist believe may be more than a thousands years old.
The most astonishing part, the discovery was at depths previously not known to host such dense communities. The discovery was made in an unexplored narrow ridge at more than 7,500 feet deep on the southern end of West Florida Escarpment.
The team of research explained that in order for so many corals to thrive in such an environment, a lot of factors needed to come together, including the right underlying geology, current flow, food availability, coral recruitment, and stability.
Exposed rock and boulders along the Escarpment Canyon Ridge are home to corals and sponges, as well as many other animals including, different types of corals, sea pens, anemones, sea stars, bryozoans, benthic ctenophores, barnacles, shrimp, sea cucumbers, fish, and eels. The researchers found that the coral, sponges, and other invertebrates were more common on the rocks than they were in sediment areas.
“We’re starting to see all the different things that have to come together to make really great communities,’ said the researchers. “Those are going to help inform models of coral density so that in the future we can to become even better at predicting where we may find communities like this.
First commissioned in August 2008, the Okeanos Explorer was first commissioned in August 2008 and is the only federally-funded US ship assigned to explore the ocean in real-time with telepresence technology. To follow the Explorers journey, you can check it out here.