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Wed Oct 30, 2019, 02:24 AM

Ancient Great Barrier Reef discovered off northern Australia

By Peter Hannam
October 30, 2019 4.59pm

Australia's north-west was once fringed by a giant chain of corals that were a "mirror image" of the modern-day Great Barrier Reef, researchers have found.

Jackson McCaffrey, a PhD candidate plotted the scale of an ancient "Western Great Barrier Reef" using seismic data collected by energy prospectors over the past six decades.

Mr McCaffrey, lead researcher of a paper published recently in Global and Planetary Change, said he was "definitely" surprised by the size of the reef: "It got more and more striking, the more we looked at it."

The 100,000 kilometres of seismic data was supplemented by seabed samples drilled by the International Ocean Discovery Program.

They showed the big reef emerged about 16 million years ago, said Stephen Gallagher, an Associate Professor of the University of Melbourne and one of Mr McCaffrey's PhD supervisors.

The reef system eventually grew to about 2000 kilometres - similar to today's Great Barrier Reef.


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