A rare cold water coral reef was recently found off the coast of Northern Africa off the coast of Mauritania on the Atlantic Ocean side of the continent. Although cold water coral ecosystems have been found as far north as Scandinavia and the Irish Seam this is the first time a reef like this was discovered this far south.
The reef lies in the middle of a massive rock formation in an undersea canyon and measures around 164 to 197 ft. high and 118 miles long. When researchers dropped a robot onto the seafloor over 2,000 ft. below the surface, the team noticed the impressive reef that included a heavily calcified Lophelia coral with orange-red polyps along with gorgonian coral. Along with the coral, the team discovered giant clams hanging on the coral, similar to what is found on Norwegian reefs.
These cold water corals live at 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) and thrive in the dark and nutrient-rich deep sea region below 650 feet (200 m). According to the research team, this cold water coral ecosystem may be due to offshore winds pushing the surface waters from the Mauritanian cliffs out into the open ocean creating a flow of cold and nutrient-rich water to the coral ecosystems.
[via Our Amazing Planet]