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Message from beneath the ocean

A TEAM of researchers from Australia and the United States have uncovered new marine life in deep waters off Tasmania state of Australia.

But scientists who took part in the four-week expedition also found that most reef-forming coral deeper than 1,300 meters in the area was newly dead. Researchers will study samples to try to determine whether the creatures are dying because of ocean warming, disease, a rise in ocean acidity or some other reason.

"Mathematical models predict that we could be seeing impacts of ocean acidification in this region," said one of the expedition's chief scientists, Ron Thresher of Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

"If our analysis identifies this phenomenon as the cause of the reef system's demise, then the impact we are seeing now below 1,300 meters might extend to the shallower portions of the deep reefs over the next 50 years, threatening this entire community."

The effect of rising ocean acidity on coral is troubling, said Michael Kingsford, head of marine biology at James Cook University in Queensland state. "Any warning signs that deep calcium carbonate-based animals like corals are getting weaker is, of course, of great concern, and does match with the long-term prediction that we're heading in the wrong direction," he said.

The team found marine life never described in scientific literature before, including gooseneck barnacles and millions of purple-spotted sea anemones.

Scientists also discovered corals more than 10,000 years old and will study them for clues on ancient climate data.


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