Abstract

High-resolution seismic-reflection profiles off the lower Florida Keys reveal a multiple outlier-reef tract system ∼0.5 to 1.5 km sea-ward of the bank margin. The system is characterized by a massive, outer main reef tract of high (28 m) unburied relief that parallels the margin and at least two narrower, discontinuous reef tracts of lower relief between the main tract and the shallow bank-margin reefs. The outer tract is ∼0.5 to 1 km wide and extends a distance of ∼57 km. A single pass divides the outer tract into two main reefs. The outlier reefs developed on antecedent, low-gradient to horizontal offbank surfaces, interpreted to be Pleistocene beaches that formed terracelike features. Radiocarbon dates of a coral core from the outer tract confirm a pre-Holocene age. These multiple outlier reefs represent a new windward-margin model that presents a significant, unique mechanism for progradation of carbonate platforms during periods of sea-level fluctuation. Infilling of the back-reef terrace basins would create new terraced promontories and would extend or "step" the platform seaward for hundreds of metres. Subsequent outlier-reef development would produce laterally accumulating sequences.

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