Seven lithologic formations, ranging in age from Oligocene to Pleistocene, were recently penetrated by core holes in southernmost Florida. From bottom to top, they are the early Oligocene Suwannee Limestone; late-early Oligocene-to-Miocene Arcadia Formation, basal Hawthorn Group; late Miocene Peace River Formation, upper Hawthorn Group; newly proposed late Miocene-to-Pliocene Long Key and Stock Island Formations; and Pleistocene Key Largo and Miami Limestones. The rocks of the Suwannee Limestone form a third-order sequence. Although the entire thickness was not penetrated, 96 m of Suwannee core from one well contains at least 50 vertically stacked, exposure-capped limestone cycles, presumably related to rapid eustatic fluctuations while experiencing tropical to subtropical conditions. The Arcadia Formation is a composite sequence containing four high-frequency sequences composed of multiple vertically stacked carbonate cycles. Most cycles do not show evidence of subaerial exposure and were deposited under more temperate conditions, relative to the Suwannee Limestone. The Arcadia Formation in southernmost Florida is bounded by regional unconformities representing third-order sequence boundaries. Post-Arcadia transgression produced a major backstepping of sediment accumulation above the upper sequence boundary of the Arcadia Formation. The Peace River Formation, composed of diatomaceous mudstones, has been identified only beneath the Florida peninsula and is not present beneath the Florida Keys. Deposition occurred during marine transgressive to high-stand conditions and a local phosphatization event (recorded in northeast Florida). The transgression is possibly related to a global rise in sea level, which resulted in upwelling of relatively cooler, relatively nutrient-rich water masses onto the Florida Platform.
It is proposed that the absence of Peace River sediments beneath the Keys is due to sediment bypass of the upper surface of the Arcadia, a result of sediment sweeping by an ancestral Florida current. During late Miocene to Pliocene time in the Florida Keys, siliciclastics of the Long Key Formation and fine-grained carbonates of the Stock Island Formation prograded toward the southern edge of the Florida Platform and downlapped onto the regional unconformity at the top of the Arcadia. Shallow-marine Pleistocene limestones (Key Largo and Miami Limestones), deposited during tropical to subtropical conditions, drape over accretionary successions of the Long Key and Stock Island Formations.