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Snorkelers discover record-breaking coral in Great Barrier Reef

A group of snorkelers in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef discovered a true treasure during a dive last week. While swimming off the coast of Goolboodi island in Queensland’s Palm Island Group, they stumbled across a coral measuring 17.4 feet (5.3 meters) tall and 34.1 feet (10.4 meters) wide.

The astonishing find is approximately the size of a double-decker bus and the widest single coral structure in the Great Barrier Reef. The size was confirmed by researchers from James Cook University whose official report details that it surpasses the previous record for widest coral by an impressive eight feet. As far as height, it ranks as sixth tallest.

The coral belongs to the Porites genus and lies in a rarely explored area of the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers consulted the Indigenous Manbarra people to come up with its official name: Muga dhambi, meaning “big coral.”

Porites corals grow to large sizes by secreting layers of calcium carbonate beneath their bodies as they grow to form the foundation of coral reefs. About 70 percent of their structure is living while the remainder is made up of green boring sponge, turf algae, and green algae. Perhaps most impressive, this particular coral is believed to be between 421 and 438 years old. This puts it close in age to the reef’s oldest documented coral which is 436 years old.

The new discovery illustrates the true resiliency of nature. This magnificent coral has survived storms, bleaching events, poor water quality, and human threats, offering a glimmer of hope for the Great Barrier Reef as we face the consequences of climate change.

Image source: Richard Woodgett

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