Scientists claim to have discovered a new underwater world off the Tasmanian coast made up of volcanic mountain peaks that tower about 3km from the seafloor.
During a 25-day research expedition, a team of researchers from the Australia National University detected the chain of volcanic seamounts 400km east of Tasmania using detailed seafloor mapping technology.
A seamount is a mountain that rises from the ocean floor but remains below the water surface.
Mapping revealed seamounts measuring up to 3km (1.9miles) from the seabed, but 2km (1.2miles) below the surface.
Throughout the expedition, scientists also noted frequent visits from marine life like humpback and long-finned pilot whales and seabirds like albatross and petrel, a sign that the seamounts may serve as vital stopping signposts for migratory animals -- or what researcher Eric Woehler described as an underwater migratory highway.
"Clearly, these seamounts are a biological hotspot that supports life, both directly on them, as well as in the ocean above," he said in a statement.
The team will return to the area later this year to conduct two more research voyages.