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Great Barrier Reef seafloor mapping reveals new species and rare samples

The Schmidt Ocean Institute’s research vessel Falkor embarked on its fourth expedition this year to explore the deepest regions of the Great Barrier Reef. At 1,820 meters deep, the researchers discovered five new species of corals and sponges and took the first sample of the 40 and 50 million year old ancient bedrock beneath the Great Barrier Reef. 

In addition to these new discoveries, the team also documented the first observation of the extremely rare Rhinopias agroliba fish in Australia. Throughout their expedition, the researchers completed high-resolution mapping of the Coral Sea covering 38,395 square kilometers. That’s more than three times larger than the area of Sydney!

“These maps, samples, and images are fascinating and provide a new understanding of the geological diversity and biological wealth of a region that is already world-renowned for its natural beauty,” said Dr. Jyotika Virmani, executive director of Schmidt Ocean Institute. 

The research team included scientists from Geoscience Australia, James Cook University, University of Sydney, Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), Queensland Museum Network, and the Queensland University of Technology. The expedition spanned many research disciplines including geology, biology, and oceanography. 

The vast amount of data collected during this exhaustive expedition has already yielded some great finds, but it will also keep scientists busy for years to come as they analyze new evidence from one of the world’s most unique ecosystems. We can’t wait to see what additional discoveries come from this voyage!

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