Study Reveals Ancient Reef Structure High and Dry on Nullarbor Plain

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Nullarbor Plain location maps: satellite image (A), Shuttle Radar Topography Mission digital elevation model (SRTM DEM) image (B) and geological map (C). The rectangle in B shows the location of Figure 2. Geology based on SurfaceGeology of Australia, scale 1: 1 000 000, edition 2012 (Geoscience Australia, 2012). AL = Oligocene-Miocene Abrakurrie Limestone; C = colluvium and residual deposits; CS = Miocene Colville Sandstone; D = dunes; NL = Miocene Nullarbor Limestone; NLm = Mullamullang Member of the Nullarbor Limestone; RC = Pliocene-Pleistocene Roe Calcarenite; RSC = residual sediments and calcrete; SSM = Holocene Semaphore Sand Member of the Saint Kilda Formation. Credit: Processes and landforms on the Earth’s surface (2022). DOI: 10.1002/esp.5459

Curtin University researchers and international collaborators using advanced satellite imagery have discovered an ancient reef-like landform “hidden” from view on the Nullarbor Plain, which has been preserved for millions of years since it was first formed when the plain was submerged. used to be.

Research author Dr. Milo Barham, of the Timescales of Mineral Systems Group within Curtin’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, said the finding further challenged the notion that the Nullarbor Plain, which emerged from the ocean about 14 million years ago, was essentially flat and featureless. .

“Unlike many other parts of the world, large areas of the Nullarbor Plain have remained largely unchanged for millions of years by weathering and erosion, making it a unique geological canvas that records ancient history in remarkable ways,” said Dr. barham.

“Through high-resolution satellite imagery and fieldwork, we have identified the clear remnant of an original seafloor structure preserved for millions of years, which is the first of these types of landforms discovered on the Nullarbor Plain.

“The annular ‘mound’ cannot be explained by extraterrestrial impact or known deformation processes, but retains the original microbial textures and features typical of the modern Great Barrier Reef.”

dr. Barham said the discovery was due to better access to new high-resolution satellite images, which revealed subtle features that represent surprising histories of environmental evolution on the Nullarbor Plain.

Evidence of the channels of long-disappeared rivers, as well as sand dune systems imprinted directly into limestone preserve an archive of ancient landscapes and even a record of prevailing winds. And it’s not just landscapes. Isolated cave shafts that punctuate the Nullarbor preserve mummified remains of Tasmanian tigers and complete skeletons of long-extinct wonders such as Thylacoleo, the marsupial lion,” said Dr. barham.

“On the surface, the Nullarbor Plain, due to its relatively stable conditions, has preserved large amounts of meteorites, allowing us to look back in time to the origins of our solar system.

“These features, combined with the million-year-old landscape features we have now identified, effectively make the Nullarbor Plain a land forgotten by time and provide a fascinating deeper understanding of Earth’s history.”

dr. Barham is affiliated with The Institute for Geoscience Research (TIGeR), Curtin’s flagship Earth Sciences research institute.

Entitled “Enigmatic annular landform on a Miocene flat karst surface, Nullarbor Plain, Australia” and will be published in Processes and landforms on the Earth’s surfaceThe research was led by Dr. Matej Lipar of the Anton Melik Geographic Institute of the Research Center of the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts.

New Technique Unlocks Earth’s Ancient History From Grains Of Sand

More information:
Matej Lipar et al, Enigmatic annular landform on a Miocene flat karst surface, Nullarbor Plain, Australia, Processes and landforms on the Earth’s surface (2022). DOI: 10.1002/esp.5459

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Quote: Study Reveals Ancient Reef Structure High and Dry on Nullarbor Plain (September 2022, Sept. 7) recovered Sept. 8, 2022 from

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