"If we saw a sea-level rise in the future of a similar rate as this past event, it would likely devastate coral reefs and coastal systems," Associate Professor Webster said.
The fossil corals used in this study were collected by a team of technical rebreather scuba divers who dove down to 150 m below present sea level to access the fossil reef.
At this depth, more than 130m deeper than where you could dive along their living shallow counterparts today, the divers recovered targeted shallow reef species that were alive over 14,700 years ago.
Lead author Ms Sanborn said this coral reef had been growing for thousands of years, during the initially gradual sea-level rise as the ice sheets of the last ice age began to melt.
The research was a collaborative effort between the University of Sydney, the University of Tokyo, the University of Florida, the University of Granada, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, the University of Hawaii, and the Association for Marine Exploration.
Co-author Associate Professor Jody Webster, from the Geocoastal Research Group at the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences, said although this pulse was greater than current modelling predictions of sea-level rise over the next few hundred years, it provides an example of the risks rapid environmental change poses to our marine ecosystems.This event is believed to have been brought about by catastrophic melting of the Greenland, and potentially also Antarctic, ice sheets."This may help us better predict the extent of future sea-level rise based on how vulnerable the Antarctic ice sheet is to collapse and melting," Ms Sanborn said.On further examination, he and his brother determined it to be the remains of a “big fat rotten cow”.The two brought it to their parents, who identified it as an elephant skull. According to Peter Houde, a biology professor at New Mexico State University who the family consulted, the skull belonged to a 1.2 million-year-old Stegomastodon – a distant relative of the elephant, similar to a mastodon.This is supported by other studies from around the world showing a rapid sea-level rise around 14,700 years ago.