SCIENCE

Hidden 600-Mile Coral Reef Discovered Off Of The Amazon River Bewilders Scientists

(Photo : Education Images / Getty Images ) Diverse sea fans, fish and sponges were found in an unlikely ocean bed off of the Amazon River.

Scientists have discovered a 600-mile coral reef at the mouth of the Amazon River, National Geographic reports.

On Friday, an international research team, which included the University of Georgia and the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, discovered a diverse ecosystem of fish, soft coral and sponges, Phys.org reports.

The bottom of a muddy plume, which is an area of ocean that a river empties into, was analyzed with multibeam acoustic sampling, according to Phys.org. The seabed mapping technique gives researchers a rough image of undersea objects.

Scientists then used a dredge, shipped from the University of Washington, to search the area for samples, The Atlantic reports.

Researchers were shocked to uncover a reef teeming with diverse life, because It was widely believed that the muddy waters from the Amazon River would smother delicate corals and similar structures.

Oceanographer Patricia Yager claimed, "We brought up the most amazing animals I've ever seen on an expedition like this," according to National Geographic.

Scientists also found that these amazing communities changed the further north one traveled up the sea shelf.

"In the far south, it gets more light exposure, so many of the animals are more typical reef corals and things that photosynthesize for food. But as you move north ... the reef transitions to sponges and other reef builders that are likely growing on the food that the river plume delivers. So the two systems are intricately linked," according to Yager via Phys.org.

Yager spent two months in Brazil as a visiting professor for Science Without Borders and was initially denied access to the plume by the Brazilian Government. A compromise eventually led to the inclusion of Brazilian researchers, according to The Atlantic.

Red tape was one of many challenges including poor GPS reception, bad visibility in the mud and strict time constraints. However, the ultimate challenge for this work involves environmental threats.

Yager warned that ocean acidification, warming and potential offshore drilling are major risks to the whole ecosystem, Phys.org reports.

The Amazon River reef discovery suggests that other diverse and endangered communities could exist right under our nose.

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