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Scientists find ‘lost world’ where whales use volcanoes to navigate



A "submarine and spectacular" underwater world of dead volcanoes was found by scientists at the Australian National University off the east coast of Tasmania.

The researcher of the CSIRO research vessel was engaged in a 25-day mission mapping the sea floor 400 km from the east coast of Tasmania when he discovered submarine mountains that reached up to 3,000 meters.

Hills and valleys were probably formed many millennia ago from ancient volcanic activity.

Dr. Tara Martin, from the CSIRO mapping team, said that the chain was raised "from an abyssal plain of about 5000 meters deep" and "offered a window on a submerged world never seen before it's spectacular".

"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," Martin said.

CSIRO research indicates that whales can use the characteristics of the sea floor as navigational aids during their migration.

The submarine mountains vary in size and shape.
Australian National University / CSIRO

Dr Eric Woehler of BirdLife Tasmania, was in Investigator with a team conducting surveys on seabirds and marine mammals.

He said that at least 28 single humpbacks visited the boat in a single day, followed by a herd of 60-80 pilot whales with long fins to the next.

"We also saw a large number of seabirds in the area, including four species of albatross and four species of petrel," said Woehler.

The team now believes that the submarine mountains are a "biological access point" and could be an important sign on a submarine road for whales moving from their winter farm to summer feeding camps.

The range will be studied later this year when Investigator returns to the region for research trips in November and December.


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