Scientists have discovered a massive, 3,600 square foot and heretofore unknown coral reef system at the mouth of the Amazon River, reported the Guardian.
The 600-mile coral formation "ranges from about 30-120m deep and stretches from French Guiana to Brazil's Maranhão state," the paper wrote, and researchers, oil companies and governments are scrambling to explore it. According to initial results published in Science Advances the site is "impoverished" but boasts impressive biodiversity.
Source: Carlos Rezende (UENF) and Fabiano Thompson (UFRJ)/NPR
The reef system escaped detection due to the Amazon's muddy outflow, which is visible from space and clouds the waters. However, that same freshwater outflow gave life to the reef.
"Coral reefs usually don't thrive in muddy waters, like the mouth of the world's largest river, but the Amazon has a freshwater outflow," reported NPR's Catherine Osborn. "It appears to have produced a reef with over 60 species of sponges and 73 species of fish, spiny lobsters, sea stars, and other ocean life. The reef stretches from the coast of French Guiana to Brazil's Maranhão state."
29 of those sponges are suspected to be newly discovered species, reported the Smithsonian, and just 10% of the reef has been explored.
Photos of Brazil's rainforest through the years:
"The Brazilian government has sold 80 blocks for oil exploration and drilling at the mouth of the Amazon and 20 of these are already producing oil -- some, it is thought, right on top of the reef," wrote the Guardian.
h/t the Guardian