Abstract

In a companion study to earlier work in the Indo-Pacific, taphonomic alteration in reef-coral death assemblages was assessed in four distinct reef habitats ranging from 2–30 m water depth in the Florida Keys reef tract. Physical and biological taphonomic attributes measured from coral specimens showed great variability with respect to reef environment. Physico-chemical degradation (abrasion and dissolution) was greatest in reef-crest and patch-reef environments. With the exception of encrusting foraminifera, coverage by epi- and endobionts was higher in deep-reef environments (20 m and 30 m). Variability in dissolution and abrasion is likely the result of the different energy regimes present in the reef habitats examined. Variability in biological attributes results from a combination of increased residence time of coral skeletons on substrates in deep-reef environments, higher overall coral skeletal densities of corals inhabiting deep reef environments, and increased nutrient availability in the deep reefs sampled. Clear gradients in the degree of taphonomic alteration of reef corals with reef habitat indicate the utility of corals as taphofacies indicators in ancient reef settings. In contrast to shallow-water reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, taphonomic alteration of corals in the Florida Keys was equitable across growth forms.

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