Researchers have discovered an underwater volcanic world filled with marine life off of the coast of Tasmania.
Scientists from the Australian National University (ANU) recently made the discovery during a 25-day research excursion involving detailed seafloor mapping in waters located some 250 miles east of Tasmania.
Mapping taken by the Investigator research vessel revealed a chain of volcanic seamounts (underwater mountains) sitting at a depth of about 16,400 feet, with some of the tallest peaks reaching heights close to 10,000 feet.
“This is a very diverse landscape and will undoubtedly be a biological hotpot that supports a dazzling array of marine life,” Dr. Tara Martin from Australia’s natural science agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization said in a statement.
The previously unseen underwater world is "teeming with marine life," researchers said, pointing to sightings of 28 humpback whales in one day followed by additional sightings of a pod of 60 to 80 long-finned pilot whales the very next day.
Researchers believe the area could be a vital stopping point for migrating animals, particularly with whales who might be using the underwater volcanoes as navigation points to help them find their way.
“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,” Dr. Eric Woehler, who was part of the team of researchers onboard the vessel, said.
In addition to whales, researchers also spotted a variety of seabirds that flock to the area, which they believe is a hotbed for marine life both above and below the ocean's surface.
The researchers plan to continue studying the newly discovered "lost world" this November and December, using deep sea cameras to document its rich array of aquatic species.