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Article

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Published in: 10th Symposium on the Geology of the Bahamas and other Carbonate Regions,2001.

Abstract

Over the past 20 years, the composi­ tion of Caribbean coral reef communities has changed drastically. The ecology of modern reefs, however, has only been studied since the late 1950's. Thus, only a thirty year data set on changes in coral community composi­ tion exists with which to assess the current faunal transition. The need for longer term data has been recognized by marine ecologists as essential for determining whether the cur­ rent transition is part of a long tenn cycle or itself is an unprecedented phenomenon.

On Telephone Pole Reef, San Salva­ dor, Bahamas, a transition from Acropora cer­ vicornis dominance to that of Porites porites has been observed in recent years. Dead A. cervicornisa specimens found at this locality display high levels of taphonomic alteration, which may serve as a marker for prior transi­ tions of this type in other reefs. It is not known, however, if a transition of this nature occurred in the past.

The fossil record provides precisely the database required for answering this ques­ tion. A detailed examination of the fossil reef at Cockburn Town, San Salvador, Bahamas, has been performed in order to evaluate whether it preserves evidence of community transitions analogous to those occurring today. Specimens of fossil corals were collected from six stratigraphic horizons and a variety of ta-phonomic were obtained. Although different styles of preservation characterize specific ho­ rizons in the fossil reef, evidence does not ex­ ist for a Pleistocene precedent for the transi­ tion currently observed offshore.

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