A 650-million-year-old underwater reef, 10 times higher than the Great Barrier Reef, has been discovered in the middle of Australia's outback.
The ancient reef, formed nearly 100 million years before the first known animal life evolved, is the only one of its age in the world. Scientists believe it may hold evidence of the earliest examples of primitive animal life.
The reef was discovered by three Melbourne scientists in the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Formed hundreds of millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the earth, it existed for five to 10 million years in a tropical period sandwiched between two ice ages.
The next closest aged series of reefs are in Arctic Canada.
The scientists, from the School of Earth Science at Melbourne University believe the reef could also explain the extent of climate change in Earth's early history.
"Some of the complex organisms we have seen in the reef have never been discovered previously," associate Professor Malcolm Wallace, told The Times Online. "There is nothing like these fossils in any modern setting, but they have structures that are similar to some animals."