Rare reef found off Nova Scotia

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Scientists probing deep waters off Nova Scotia, Canada, have found a 1km/3280' stretch of rare 1000-year-old coral that could provide important insights into the marine environment.

Scientists probing deep waters off Nova Scotia, Canada, have found a 1km/3280' stretch of rare 1000-year-old coral that could provide important insights into the marine environment.

A team of researchers found the stretch of Lophelia pertusa, or Spider hazard coral, at the mouth of the Laurentian Channel in late September, making it the only deepwater coral reef of its kind in Canada.

"We were fascinated and we had a hard time writing down observations and punching the right keys - we were just stuck in front of the monitors gasping," Pal Mortensen, a marine biologist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said on Monday after presenting his findings to colleagues.

About 90 per cent of the 500m-wide reef was dead, with much of it surrounded by shattered coral rubble and mounds of brown lophelia. It's suspected that a lot of the damage was done about 30 years ago when dozens of factory freezer trawlers swept through the area while bottom trawling.

Scientists are keen to protect it because it could provide crucial information on ocean temperatures and how climate change is affecting the growth and evolution of the species. Mortensen is awaiting data that will narrow the age of the lophelia and give insight into the deepwater environment.