Huge Great Barrier Reef coral is 400 years old: scientists

Sydney, Australia, Aug 20 (EFE).- A huge 10.4 meter-wide coral found by scuba divers in March in a remote area of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is between 421 and 438 years old, scientific sources reported Friday.

The gigantic semicircular porito coral, named Muga dhambi, is 5.3 meters tall and is considered one of the oldest in the Great Barrier Reef, the world’s largest coral system. It was discovered by a group of amateur scientists diving near Orpheus Island, in the far northeast of Australia.

“Its discovery is significant locally and globally. It is a giant coral that is a very important part of the coral reef ecosystem in Goolboodi and home to corals, sponges and various species of fish in the Great Barrier Reef,” said Adam Smith, lead author of the study published in the Scientific Reports journal at James Cook University.

However, its dimensions are below a gigantic coral in the American territory of Samoa, which at 17 meters wide by 12 meters tall is the largest in the world, according to the scientific report.

This dome-shaped coral is in relatively good condition, but climate change and deteriorating water quality, as well as other threats, are impacted on the Great Barrier Reef.

Scientists said Mugha dhambi, with 70 percent of its structure alive, is resilient because it has survived 80 large cyclones, various coral bleaching phenomena and exposure to invasive species, among other aggressions that include human activity.

Muga dhambi “is a great example of a beautiful, tough coral that has survived and thrived for four centuries,” Smith said.

The Great Barrier Reef was almost declared a world heritage site in danger, but the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization committee decided not to include it. This was despite the International Union for Conservation of Nature last December describing its status as being of “significant concern” to “critical,” its worst conservation rating.

The Great Barrier Reef, which was made a World Heritage Site in 1981 and stretches 2,300 kilometers off Australia’s northeast coast, is home to 400 types of coral, 1,500 species of fish and 4,000 varieties of mollusks.

The largest coral reef in the world began to deteriorate in the 1990s due to the double impact of warming sea waters and the increase in its acidity due to the greater presence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. EFE


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