Shark Bay is home to some of WA’s most striking and unique natural wonders – and one has just become even more remarkable!
Researchers from Flinders University and UWA have discovered that one of the bay’s huge seagrass fields, which stretches over a gargantuan 200km², is in fact a singular, ancient plant. Roughly the size of 20,000 rugby fields and spawning approximately 4500 years ago, the Posidonia australis is a vital habitat for Shark Bay’s dugong population (which is one of the most stable populations of the vulnerable animal in the world!), as well as Monkey Mia’s famously friendly dolphins.
The discovery was made using genetic sequencing, after samples of seagrass from 180km apart revealed that it was the same plant, growing and expanding in the same way as your backyard lawn does: sending out rhizomes and runners. The plant is also largely sterile, relying on growing into areas rich with nutrients rather than reproducing.
The vast 2.2 million hectare Shark Bay World Heritage Area was the first place in WA to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Area, and also has the distinction of being Australia’s largest bay.
Header image: Shutterstock/Philip Schubert