Underwater landslides and deep water corals have been discovered during an oceanographic expedition exploring submarine canyons in the central Mediterranean Sea.

The CUMECS expedition has recently completed a survey of a number of submarine canyons, large valleys on the seafloor, located to the east of the Maltese Islands.

Using state-of-the-art technology on board the Italian research vessel Urania, scientists discovered numerous submarine landslides, some of which are as large as 5,000 football pitches.

Since submarine landslides are a known geohazard, the scientists have collected seafloor samples to understand the how and when these landslides occurred.

Various examples of deep sea marine life, such as black coral communities, sharks and squids, were encountered during surveys made using an underwater robot.

The robot also allowed the scientists to observe evidence of human disturbance in such deep environments in the form of lost fishing gear and trawl marks.

Both submarine canyons and deep water coral communities have become a conservation priority for the European Union.

The CUMECS expedition, which was funded by the Eurofleets project, included 13 geoscientists and students from eight academic institutions.

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