Marine Science Faculty Publications

Strange Bedfellows—a Deep-water Hermatypic Coral Reef Superimposed on a Drowned Barrier Island; Southern Pulley Ridge, SW Florida Platform Margin

Document Type


Publication Date



biostrome, hermatypic reef, barrier island, paleoshoreline, sea-level change

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


The southeastern component of a subtle ridge feature extending over 200 km along the western ramped margin of the south Florida platform, known as Pulley Ridge, is composed largely of a non-reefal, coastal marine deposit. Modern biostromal reef growth caps southern Pulley Ridge (SPR), making it the deepest hermatypic reef known in American waters. Subsurface ridge strata are layered, lithified, and display a barrier island geomorphology. The deep-water reef community is dominated by platy scleractinian corals, leafy green algae, and coralline algae. Up to 60% live coral cover is observed in 60–75 m of water, although only 1–2% of surface light is available to the reef community. Vertical reef accumulation is thin and did not accompany initial ridge submergence during the most recent sea-level rise. The delayed onset of reef growth likely resulted from several factors influencing Gulf waters during early stages of the last deglaciation (∼14 kyr B.P.) including; cold, low-salinity waters derived from discrete meltwater pulses, high-frequency sea-level fluctuations, and the absence of modern oceanic circulation patterns. Currently, reef growth is supported by the Loop Current, the prevailing western boundary current that impinges upon the southwest Florida platform, providing warm, clear, low-nutrient waters to SPR. The rare discovery of a preserved non-reefal lowstand shoreline capped by rich hermatypic deep-reef growth on a tectonically stable continental shelf is significant for both accurate identification of late Quaternary sea-level position and in better constraining controls on the depth limits of hermatypic reefs and their capacity for adaptation to extremely low light levels.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Marine Geology, v. 214, issue 4, p. 295-307