FORT PIERCE, Fla., May 22 (UPI) -- Florida researchers are using a submersible craft to explore, for the first time, newly discovered deep-sea reefs between Florida and the Bahamas.
Scientists from the Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution, located in Fort Pierce, Fla., along with colleagues from the University of Miami, are exploring the reefs that were discovered in 2,000 to 2,900 feet of water last December.
A primary goal of the expedition is to discover marine organisms that produce chemical compounds with the potential to treat human diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's.
"We've found incredible and surprising diversity at other deepwater reefs near Miami and Bimini, and some promising potential disease treatments, so we're very excited about the chance to explore these new areas," said Amy Wright, director of the Harbor Branch Division of Biomedical Marine Research.
The researchers believe the reefs form an extensive system of steep slopes and mounds as high as 350 feet, all of which are likely to harbor a wide array of sponges, corals, fish, and other animals.
Harbor Branch's sea quest has produced drugs now in development for treating cancer, Alzheimer's, malaria, AIDS and other ailments.