Deepest coral found off Great Barrier Reef

Posted by Kate Taylor

Scientists from the Catlin Seaview Survey say they've discovered the Great Barrier Reef's deepest corals, over 400 feet beneath the waves.

The find was made on the outer edge of the Ribbon Reefs off the north of the Barrier Reef, four times deeper than the shallow reef coral visited by scuba divers.

"Although the corals are small and the community at such depth only consists of few species, it shows that there are viable communities living down there. The corals were attached to the rock surface and were certainly not individual corals which have fallen down to this depth," says team leader Dr Pim Bongaerts from the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland.

"The discovery shows that there are coral communities on the Great Barrier Reef existing at considerably greater depths than we could ever have imagined."

The Great Barrier Reef expedition is part of a program to survey many of the world’s coral reefs which are under threat from climate change, as well as from coastal pollution and unsustainable fishing practices.  

"With unusually calm seas we were able to deploy our Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) off the very edge of the Australian continental shelf, where the depths quickly plummet to several hundred meters," says Dr. Paul Muir, a taxonomist from the Museum of Tropical Queensland.

"Working with the ROV at these depths proved very challenging and with more than 250m cable out to provide power and communications with the ROV, it was a real struggle to collect a specimen of one of these corals. However, after quite a long battle against the dragging tether we managed to get good close-up images of several of the deep corals and collected one precious specimen from 125m."