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The Great Barrier Reef Has Been Hiding A Bigger, Donut-Shaped Reef

First Posted: Sep 14, 2016 04:20 AM EDT

In a discovery that couldn't have come at a more opportune moment, scientists have discovered that there is bigger, richer reef behind the Great Barrier Reef. According to laser data collected from the Royal Australian Navy, the new reef seems to be a donut-shaped structure. Upon further research, the reef is covered with geological formations that resemble Halimeda bioherms, created by green algae.

Robin Beaman, a research fellow from James Cook University and part of the research team behind the discovery of the reef said that they were already aware of the structures since the '70s and '80s. However, the vast scale of these formations had been unprecedented and undocumented, up until now, according to Live Science.

When viewed from the air, the vast expanse covers nearly 2,300 square-miles on the ocean floor. The researchers claim that this reef is a lot deeper than the Great Barrier Reef and also very unusually shaped. The reef also seems to be healthy as most of it still looks green, showing that the algae is thriving in the habitat. The formations or mounds discovered on the new reef extend up to 30 feet tall and 600 feet across. The researchers also estimate that the reef dates back to more than 10,000 years of existence, in a report by NPR.

The area covers 6,000 square kilometres that extends from the Torres Strait to just north of Port Douglas. The discovery came about thanks to the use of light-sensing technology, known as LiDAR (Light Detection and Raging). This form of detection uses laser technology instead of radio waves to measure the distance of the formations. It does this by timing how long the light hits the surface. It has also been used in archaeology and for mapping underwater topography.

Scientists are now trying to decipher what sort of biology dwells within these new formations. By studying the reef, they will also get to understand how Global Warming has affected these formations over the years and also provide solutions as to how the sustained affects can be diminished, according to Science Alert.

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