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Giant coral over 400 years old discovered on Barrier Reef

Participants in the Reef Health Impact Survey course discovered a giant 16th century coral while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef. Researchers described the unusual creature in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. The giant semi-circular hard coral was classified by the experts as a representative of the genus Porites. From the information they included in
Published: August 23, 2021 - 12:35
Updated: July 22, 2023 - 23:06
Giant coral over 400 years old discovered on Barrier Reef

Participants in the Reef Health Impact Survey course discovered a giant 16th century coral while snorkelling on the Great Barrier Reef.

Researchers described the unusual creature in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. The giant semi-circular hard coral was classified by the experts as a representative of the genus Porites. From the information they included in their publication, it appears to be a very unique specimen in many respects.

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Giant coral from Australia
Measurements of the giant coral Photo: Richard Woodgett
Reef giant

Let us point out at the outset that the coral discovered is a real giant. The still-flowering colony measures 5.3 metres high and 10.4 metres wide. This makes it as much as 2.4 metres wider than any other coral previously measured on Barrier Reef. The age of the creature also seems unusual. Researchers have estimated it to be more than 400 years old! According to them, the coral was formed at the end of the 16th century.

The coral was discovered off the coast of Goolboodi Island, also known as Orpheus Island. It is one of sixteen islands that make up the Palm Islands group in the Australian state of Queensland. The Manbarra Aborigines living in the area named the coral colossus Muga dhambi, which can be translated as “Big Coral”.

The surface of an unusual creature from the Barrier Reef
Close examination of the coral surface has yielded a wealth of interesting information Photo Richard Woodgett
Case

As is often the case in the world of science, the discovery of an unusual coral came about by accident. Its discoverers participated together with the Reef Ecologic group in the Reef Health Impact Survey course. The subsequent scientific report was compiled by prominent marine biologist Dr John Veron. The scientist is the undisputed expert on corals. He is credited with discovering more than one fifth of all coral species in the world.

Using calculations based on coral growth rates and annual sea surface temperatures, we believe it is between 421 and 438 years old. Thus, it is older than European exploration and settlement in Australia. Dr Adam Smith, associate professor at James Cook University, said.

Reef diving in Queensland
Scientists have found that up to 70% of the colony’s surface is still alive Photo Smith/Scientific Reports

As Smith pointed out, Muga dhambi is extremely resilient. The coral has been able to survive up to 80 major cyclones, numerous fades, exposure to invasive species, high tides and human activity. Despite this, it is still in very good condition and consists of up to 70% living coral.

Careful research has provided a better understanding of the colossus’ history. Because by analysing its surface, scientists were able to determine the conditions under which it grew.

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About author

Julia
My love for scuba diving started as a 12-year-old in the Canary Islands, at which time I took my first Open Water Diver course. This love for the blue turned into a huge passion that accompanies me to this day. Although blue is hard to come by in the Baltic, no conditions are terrible for me. In this sport, I find peace, patience, courage, focus, and balance. I have recently started to engage in underwater modeling and I am fulfilled with this.
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