The diversity of life amidst Australian coral reefs is mind-boggling. The Great Barrier Reef, for example, has coral that soars 1,600 feet up from the ocean floor and is rife with sea snakes, urchins, and other odd ocean dwellers. The Ashmore Reef, likewise, has a cornucopia of thriving aquatic organisms. Ones so varied and colorful that this highlight reel of the reef feels like a scene out of Finding Nemo.
The Schmidt Ocean Institute recently posted the above video of the Australian reef. Founded by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy, the nonprofit aims to advance oceanographic research. And it has, in the process, spied some truly wild sea creatures. Even some particularly nerdy ones.
In the video, the Institute offers some of the highlights from a recent expedition with the name Twilight Coral. The expedition saw a team of scientists map the entire mesophotic zone of the Ashmore reef in high resolution. The mesophotic zone—which researchers also call the “Twilight Zone,” hence the expedition’s name—is the substrate of ocean where there’s a split between organisms: those who are dependent on sunlight and those who aren’t. (Outside of this zone, it goes one way or the other.)
Schmidt Ocean Institute
Expedition scientists say they spent 140 hours surveying the mesophotic zone of the Ashmore reef with the Institute’s robotic submarine SuBastian. In all, they collected over 240 specimens and recorded the light signatures of 170 unique sea creatures. They also collected water and coral samples, and observed sea snakes that nobody had seen for 20 years.
Interesting findings aside, the highlight reel of the reef is a real visual treat. The 225-square-mile reef boasts tons of colorful fish, and a bunch of them appear in the video. Along with spotted sea snakes, puffy starfish, mollusks, rays, slugs, seahorses, and, of course, sharks.
Despite the bevy of species, things seem surprisingly serene in the Twilight Zone of the Ashmore reef. (Maybe all the creatures knew they were on camera and want to participate in an upcoming Disney project.)
Feature image: Schmidt Ocean Institute
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