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How do we prevent ‘deep’ trouble’ in our oceans?

PLENTY has been written, and spoken, and filmed about the problems and challenges facing the Great Barrier Reef.

Coral bleaching, poor water quality from the ‘run-off’ of civilization, persistently high ocean temperatures, floating mountains of microplastics doing untold damage to wildlife — there’s plenty to be concerned about. These are complex problems developing into deeper problems.

A group of expert scuba diving scientific researchers asked those questions another way, deciding they needed to examine the deepest parts of reefs in the Coral Sea. They wanted to see what the baseline might be for finding the depths of the real challenges facing reefs worldwide.

This record-breaking deep-diving scientific expedition — it went deeper, at 152m, than ever before — researched mesophotic coral ecosystems in the Australian Coral Sea territory and the Great Barrier Reef.

The expedition was led by Australian Museum curator of fishes, Dr Yi-Kai Tea, and the California Academy of Sciences USA curator of fishes, Dr Luiz Rocha. In the process, the team caught examples of prehistoric era aquatic life never seen before. This certainly was deep space exploration of another earthly dimension.

It is just one of the inspirational marine wildlife stories in this edition — like the phenomenon of schools of hammerhead sharks annually gathering at popular public surf beaches — and there is plenty to excite wildlife lovers on land as well.

Take the research into Australia’s Age of Monotremes, a mere 100 million years ago.

While Australia has always been unusually blessed with marsupials, recent opalised fossil discoveries reveal that, previously, we were blessed with large warm-blooded egg-laying mammals whose descendants are today’s platypus and echidna.

Yes, Australian Museum’s Professor Tim Flannery’s team discovered an ‘echidnapus’.

It’s wildlife wonderment in this winter edition of Wildlife Australia.

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