A so-called "Jurassic world" has been discovered, consisting of approximately 100 ancient volcanoes, buried deep inside central Australia.
The research, published in Gondwana Research, details the findings of ancient volcanoes that were active between 180 million and 160 million years ago under the Cooper-Eromanga Basin. Now one of the country's largest oil and gas regions, it was once home to an area filled with hot ash and lava flying high into the air, surrounded by rivers that eventually evolved into lakes and coal-swamps.
"While the majority of Earth's volcanic activity occurs at the boundaries of tectonic plates, or under the Earth's oceans, this ancient Jurassic world developed deep within the interior of the Australian continent," said the study's co-author, Simon Holford, in a statement.
"Its discovery raises the prospect that more undiscovered volcanic worlds reside beneath the poorly explored surface of Australia," Holford added.
The ancient volcanoes, which are well preserved, were discovered under hundreds of feet of rock using advanced subsurface imaging techniques, which are similar to CT scans.
In an interview with IFLScience, Holford said that the discovery of the volcanoes was not anticipated due to the heavy presence of oil exploration and production in the area. The team has termed the province the Warnie Volcanic Province (WVP), "after the Warnie East 1 exploration well, drilled in 1985," according to the study's abstract.
It's unlikely there will be much paleontological benefit to discovering the ancient volcanoes, as the drilling rigs used to dig through volcanic rock only make small holes, so the chances of hitting a fossil are minuscule.
However, the discovery of WVP does raise "the possibility of other, yet unidentified, volcanic provinces worldwide," the study notes.
In October, scientists discovered another volcanic "lost world" off the coast of Tasmania, while mapping the seafloor 249 miles east of the country.