A pair of divers discovered these stunning specimens of black coral while exploring a deep granite reef off the coast of eastern Tasmania.
It marked the first time in Australia that divers had seen tree-forming species of black coral in coastal shelf waters. And while black coral is named for the colour of the species’ skeleton, they can actually have very brightly coloured living tissue.
James Parker and Andreas Klocker retrieved video footage of their dive after they volunteered to investigate the reef on behalf of scientists from the National Environmental Science Programme Marine Biodiversity Hub.
This organisation has been 3D-mapping the seafloor using multi-beam sonar and employing autonomous vehicles to photograph and video the marine life.
In May 2011, the scientists discovered an unusual deep reef stretching 200 metres in length in the Freycinet Commonwealth Marine Park, off the coast of Bicheno.
Although they initially investigated the reef with an autonomous vehicle called Sirius, its resolution was quite poor so Parkinson and Klocker were sent in to get a better look.
The reef is too deep to be explored in an ordinary scuba dive. But the pair is trained to use rebreathers – devices that recycle breath while removing carbon dioxide – which allow them to dive deeper and spend longer on the ocean floor.
Along with the black corals, Parkinson and Klocker helped identify many of the other species of fish, coral and sponges.
Angus Bezzina is a writer from Sydney, Australia.
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