Thursday, 30 Jul, 2009 Science
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World's Largest River is 11 Million Years Old

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Scientists from the University of Liverpool found that the Amazon River, one of the two largest in the world, along with its transcontinental drainage is approximately 11 million years old. Researchers also discovered that 2.4 million years ago the river obtained the shape it has today.

In their study University of Liverpool scientists worked together with experts from the University of Amsterdam and Petrobras, Brazilian oil producer. Specialists examined sedimentary material obtained from two boreholes found next to the mouth of the Amazon River. Then they calculated the age of the river as well as the Amazon deep sea fan.

Up till now it was difficult to estimate the age of the river, because a 10km-thick submarine sediment column, which was hard to penetrate. But experts from Petrobas managed to drill two boreholes near the mouth of the river and one of those holes is 2.5 miles (4.5km) below sea level. Thus researchers were able to carry out new sedimentological and paleontological study of samples taken from the Amazon sediment.

"River sediment records provide a unique insight into the palaeoclimate and geography of the hinterland," explained Jorge Figueiredo from the University's Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences. According to Mr. Figueiredo the current research represents an important step towards understanding of the South American paleogeography. It could also help figure out the evolution of aquatic organisms in the region, as well as on the Atlantic coast. The research was published in the July issue of the journal Geology.

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