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Great Barrier Reef had predecessor

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Brisbane, Australia (UPI) Aug 19, 2010
Scientists studying Australia's Great Barrier Reef say they've discovered a less spectacular but more ancient fossilized reef just a half mile away.

Its existence was first suspected in 2007 when seismic and sonar measurements revealed odd ridges and lagoons on the seabed, reported Thursday.

The ancient reef was confirmed when researchers drilled into the ocean floor at three sites and extracted sediment cores revealing a fossilized coral reef extending more than 300 feet into the sea floor.

Preliminary dating indicates the fossilized coral is up to 169,000 years old.

"This is the great-grandmother of the Great Barrier Reef," John Pandolfi of the University of Queensland, who was not involved in the study, said.

It is "a very important discovery" and should provide new insights into the genesis of the the Great Barrier Reef, he said.

It was long thought the Great Barrier Reef sits atop an older dead reef, but 350 feet beneath the live reef, the researchers hit rock.

Corals require light to live, and Pandolfi thinks when rising sea levels at the end of the last ice age threatened to put the lights out on the ancient reef, some coral larvae traveled to shallower waters and seeded the modern one.

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