Scans have revealed multiple seamounts on the ocean floor. Image Credit: CSIRO
A deep sea research vessel has discovered a chain of underwater mountains that are teeming with life.
The discovery was made by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) vessel Investigator during efforts to map the sea floor off the coast of Tasmania.
Despite rising over 3,000 meters above the sea floor, the seamounts, which were formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago, still remain 2,000 meters beneath the ocean's surface.
"Our multibeam mapping has revealed in vibrant detail, for the first time, a chain of volcanic seamounts rising up from an abyssal plain about 5000 meters deep," said Dr Tara Martin.
"The seamounts vary in size and shape, with some having sharp peaks while others have wide flat plateaus, dotted with small conical hills that would have been formed by ancient volcanic activity."
What makes the find particularly interesting is the sheer amount of marine life observed at the site. It is thought that the seamounts may be an important stopping off point for several migratory species.
"While we were over the chain of seamounts, the ship was visited by large numbers of humpback and long-finned pilot whales," said Dr Eric Woehler from BirdLife Tasmania.
"We estimated that at least 28 individual humpback whales visited us on one day, followed by a pod of 60-80 long-finned pilot whales the next."
"These seamounts may act as an important signpost on an underwater migratory highway for the humpback whales we saw moving from their winter breeding to summer feeding grounds."