Skip to Main Content
Book Chapter

Cenozoic Reef Systems of Caribbean—Prospects for Paleoecologic Synthesis1

By
Stanley H. Frost
Stanley H. Frost
Search for other works by this author on:
Published:
January 01, 1977

Abstract

Abstract Paleoecologic reconstruction of the abundant Cenozoic fossil record of Caribbean reefs is basically dependent on uniformitarian comparisons with the biologic and geologic systems forming modern reefs. Much of the present-day coral-reef food web, however, has no mineralized skeletal parts and therefore has a low preservation potential. Detailed direct methods of reconstructing ancient reef systems must depend largely on analysis of the abundance and distribution of organisms which have hard skeletons.

The most useful models for reconstructing the ecology of Caribbean Paleocene-Oligocene reefs are those of the modern Indo-Pacific biotic province, because a substantial part of the Indo-Pacific reef biota descended from lineages which were cosmopolitan during the Paleogene. Because of the mixed cosmopolitan and provincial faunal makeup of early Miocene reef biotas in the Caribbean, uniformitarian comparisons of their ecology with that of modern-day descendants are more complicated than for Paleogene assemblages.

Caribbean middle Miocene to Pliocene reef assemblages became increasingly provincial with the extinction of many remnant Paleogene lineages of large forams, the progressive disappearance of cosmopolitan Indo-Pacific lineages of reef-building corals, and the evolution of modern species of mollusks and reef-building corals. Major changes in the ecologic distribution and abundance of key reef biota occurred in the late Neogene and Pleistocene.

In order to evaluate effectively how much of ancient reef ecosystems can be reconstructed by comparison with modern reefs, it is necessary to take into account not only the proportion of skeleton-bearing groups at each trophic level, but also the actual importance of each group in terms of standing-crop biomass and contribution to the skeletal record of benthic biota. The potential skeletal record of standing-crop biomass is poorest for benthic plants (producers) in all reef habitats. The proportionate paucity of identifiable skeletal material from the producers is therefore multiplied many times in the resultant accretionary skeletal record because their productivity rates are so much higher than consumers on the reefs.

Major conclusions on the ecology of middle Eocene through Pleistocene fossil reefs are: (1) the capacity of Paleogene framework biota to construct and maintain reef structures reached a peak during the Oligocene; (2) reef-framework biota experienced a profound reduction in diversity in the earliest Miocene, with resulting change in the types and abundance of reef structures formed; and (3) the vigor and luxuriance of framework biota appear to have increased throughout the late Miocene and Pliocene.

You do not currently have access to this article.

Figures & Tables

Contents

AAPG Studies in Geology

Reefs and Related Carbonates—Ecology and Sedimentology

Stanley H. Frost
Stanley H. Frost
Search for other works by this author on:
;
Malcolm P. Weiss
Malcolm P. Weiss
Search for other works by this author on:
;
John B. Saunders
John B. Saunders
Search for other works by this author on:
American Association of Petroleum Geologists
Volume
4
ISBN electronic:
9781629812076
Publication date:
January 01, 1977

GeoRef

References

Related

Citing Books via

Close Modal
This Feature Is Available To Subscribers Only

Sign In or Create an Account

Close Modal
Close Modal