A team of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists recently made an unexpected discovery in the farthest depths of the Gulf of Mexico, spotting a so-called “secret garden” of coral more than 7,500 feet below the surface.
According to the South China Morning Post, the discovery was made as NOAA continued its ongoing research aboard the Okeanos Explorer, analyzing the marine life and the seafloor of the Gulf of Mexico with a variety of instruments, including ROVs, or remote-operated submersibles. It was one of those ROVs that had spotted the “secret” coral garden, as the unusual sight astounded the NOAA scientists, due to the extreme depths in which the corals were found.
In a separate report, Business Insider noted that several factors have to be present in order for bamboo corals to be able to exist several thousands of feet below the surface. The corals that were spotted, for one, are better described as polyps, or “collections of tiny organisms” that filter out plankton and other smaller marine organisms from deep currents. Access to these currents is vital, as this is what assists the corals as they feed themselves, but it’s also important that there’s enough food for the corals to filter out of the currents and feed. Likewise, the corals need to have a stable form of “underlying ecology” — in this example, the corals in the “secret garden” are estimated to be up to several hundreds, or even a few thousand years old.
“This is a truly magnificent garden of coral fans, I don’t think we’ve seen these densities yet in the Gulf of Mexico,” remarked an unnamed NOAA scientist, as quoted by Business Insider.
The secret coral garden isn’t the first unusual discovery spotted by NOAA scientists in the Gulf of Mexico in recent months, as previously reported by the Inquisitr. In April, a NOAA team documented the discovery of a deep-sea squid, also found several thousands of feet below the surface, with the animal’s body appearing to be in an extremely defensive, “dramatic” pose.
Due to the peculiarity of the squid’s appearance, researchers weren’t sure if they had found a new or an existing species, but experts connected to the agency believe that the animal might be an example of Discoteuthis discus, a squid species that was once thought to solely exist in the Atlantic Ocean, but not below the Gulf of Mexico.