Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Saya de Malha Bank
The Saya de Malha Bank is a large undersea bank in the Indian Ocean, part of the vast undersea Mascarene Plateau. It lies east of Madagascar, southeast of the Seychelles, and north of the Nazareth Bank, the Cargados Carajos shoals, and the island of Mauritius.
The bank covers an area of 40,000 km². Parts of the bank are quite shallow, coming as close as 10 meters below the surface. The banks are covered with sea grass interspersed with small coral reefs. Because of their remote location, they are among the least-studied shallow marine ecoregions on the planet. The banks are a breeding ground for Humpback Whales and Blue Whales.
The bank was named by Portugese explorers 500 years ago, who encountered the bank on the voyage between the Cape of Good Hope and India. After traversing miles of the deep blue Indian Ocean, they found themselves sailing above the shallow bank, which was covered with swaying green seagrass.
The bank was formed 35 million years ago by the Réunion hotspot, and is made up of basaltic basal rock overlain with limestone. Millions of years ago, the bank may have been one or more mountainous volcanic islands, like present-day Réunion, which subsequently sank below the waves. the limestone banks found on the plateau are the remnants of coral reefs, indicating that the plateau was formerly a succession of islands. Some of the banks may have been low islands as recently as 18,000 - 6,000 years ago, when sea levels were up to 130 meters lower during the most recent ice age.
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